By Justin Sokeland
BEDFORD – Bedford North Lawrence senior Brayton Bailey ended his recruitment saga on Monday when he committed to the University of Saint Francis.
Bailey, who averaged 20.5 points, 7.7 rebounds and 5.6 assists last season, will join the NAIA power, which has posted eight 20-plus wins the last 10 years and advanced to the NAIA national championship game three times in that span.
The Cougars went 21–11 last season under head coach Chad LaCross, who was voted the NAIA Div. II national coach of the year in 2016 and owns an impressive 239-105 record in 10 seasons.
Bailey chose Saint Francis over offers from Western Kentucky (as a preferred walk-on), Lindsey Wilson and Bethel.
”They’ve always been there, the coaches have been so loyal to me,” Bailey said after announcing the decision. “As soon as I went there to visit, I could tell it was a place I wanted to play. Their style of play is similar to what I would like, so it’s a good fit.”
Bailey finished second on the school’s career scoring list with 1,579 points. But his forte has always been penetration with a pass-first, shoot-second mentality.
“I do best with a ball screen and an attack offense where I can create,” Bailey said. “It will fit well with them, because they have a whole team of shooters, so I can get in and distract people and get it out to them.”
Bailey expects to make an immediate impact with Saint Francis, which competes in the Crossroad League with Bethel, Grace, Goshen, Huntington, Indiana Wesleyan, Marian, Mount Vernon Nazarene, Spring Arbor and Taylor.
“It was just a matter of liking it and if I fit,” Bailey said. “I don’t care about that (the small school). It’s all about where I would be most comfortable and enjoying it the most. They’re definitely known for small-ball kind of group, being scrappy and doing whatever it takes to win, which I like.
”At BNL, we played Jeffersonville, Bloomington South, Warren Central, we got the strength of schedule, which really helped. If I can play against Tre Coleman (an Indiana All-Star) that’s going to Nevada, if I can play against Division I talent, it proves I can play with anyone. It was good preparation for the next step.”
Bailey, after calling the Saint Francis staff, made his decision known on social media and his phone immediately started to bing with messages and calls. He was relieved to get the choice out of the way.
“It feels good,” he said. “My parents have been on me about making a decision. I’ve known for a while.”
For the first time in his career, Bailey won’t have his father on the sideline. Damon Bailey served as an assistant coach with the Stars for the last four years.
“I will definitely miss it,” Brayton said. “It will be weird not having him there. Although there were a couple of times at practice I wish he hadn’t been there, and I’m sure there were some practices he wishes he hadn’t been there. But I’m sure my family will be at games, right behind the bench.”
Bailey scored a career-high 38 points against Milan and recorded a triple-double against New Palestine and Corydon.