Since the 2009-10 season, the Charlotte Christian girls basketball team has won nearly 80 percent of its games, advanced to a state championship final and has annually been one of the Charlotte Independent Schools Athletic Association’s best teams.
It’s no coincidence that Gigi Bailey has been the one constant during the Knights’ recent four-year run of success. Bailey, a 6-foot-4 center, averaged 17 points and 10 rebounds for Charlotte Christian before an illness derailed her last season, which ultimately played a role in the Knights’ inability to reach consecutive championship games.
Bailey was originally diagnosed with bronchitis and pneumonia, and she figured she’d be back on the court in a week or so. However, Bailey’s condition continued to worsen. As it turned out, Bailey was suffering from an autoimmune issue. She said her doctors, believing she had bronchitis and pneumonia, were prescribing her the wrong medications, further compromising her health.
Bailey’s initial stay in the hospital lasted a month. A week after being released, she suffered from dehydration and was returned to the hospital for an additional two weeks. All the while, Bailey’s mom, Kim, stayed by her side.
“It was hard but I’m glad I had my mom there,” Bailey said. “At first I thought I’d be in there for a little bit, but after a while I started missing my teammates and wanted to get back on the basketball court.
“When I finally got out, I was so humble and so grateful for the chance to play basketball again and be back at school with my teammates. For me, it was a good learning experience and a time to grow, but I’m glad it’s over so I can go back to being normal.”
Despite missing a month and a half of school, Bailey, who carries a GPA north of 4.5 as a Magna Cum Laude student, still had to pass her four Advanced Placement exams, which she did.
Over the summer, Bailey saw the fruits of her hard work and perseverance, both on the court and in the classroom, pay off when she committed to play at Harvard University.
“I never thought that I could go to Harvard,” Bailey said. “But after I looked back and saw all of the hard work I’ve put in, I realized that it’s the place that I want to be.”
While the decision to commit to Harvard, where Bailey said she wants to study pre-medicine and one day become either a pediatrician or a physiatrist, is one of her most glowing achievements, Bailey said she wants to end her high school basketball career with the state championship that’s always eluded her.
Knights coach Anthony Gill said Bailey, who he estimated is up to 95 percent healthy, is one of the biggest factors in determining how good the Knights can be. Seeing her impact on fellow teammates on a daily basis, Gill said he’s confident Bailey is determined to leave Charlotte Christian on a high note.
As the Knights got off to a 7-1 start this season, Bailey led the team with 14.4 points and 7.1 rebounds per game. But Gill said the public still hasn’t seen Bailey’s best.
“Gigi really helps the girls a lot and makes our jobs so much easier as coaches,” said Gill, who is in his first season leading the program. “Having her on the court really helps the other girls develop. She’s playing at a good pace right now. We monitor her in practice some and make sure she’s pushing herself, but if she needs a
break she takes one and comes back ready to go.
“We’ll take that other 5 percent (of her health) at the start of the year (2013), when we need it more. For now, she’s playing great.”
Bailey knows she has made an impact already but wants to make sure she finishes in a strong way.
“I think this is going to be our year,” Bailey said. “This is my last year here and I want to go out with a bang. I’ve wanted a state championship since my freshman year. Last year, not playing with my teammates was hard, but it was motivation, too.
“I want to go out on top this year.”