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Young hoopsters encouraged to learn from legend


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Bailey, left, holds up the championship trophy after leading Bedford North Lawrence past Concord 63-60 in the state finals on March 24, 1990. The championship game was watched by an audience of 41,046, at that time the largest crowd to ever watch a single high school basketball game. FILE PHOTO
Bailey, left, holds up the championship trophy after leading Bedford North Lawrence past Concord 63-60 in the state finals on March 24, 1990. The championship game was watched by an audience of 41,046, at that time the largest crowd to ever watch a single high school basketball game. FILE PHOTO

Bedford North Lawrence girls basketball coach Damon Bailey gives the signal for a triangle defense to his players on Jan. 6 at Jennings County High School. Bailey, along with his cousin, Columbus North boys basketball coach Jason Speer, will conduct a skills camp Monday at Columbus North High School. FILE PHOTO
Bedford North Lawrence girls basketball coach Damon Bailey gives the signal for a triangle defense to his players on Jan. 6 at Jennings County High School. Bailey, along with his cousin, Columbus North boys basketball coach Jason Speer, will conduct a skills camp Monday at Columbus North High School. FILE PHOTO


After playing high school basketball at Bedford North Lawrence, Jason Speer tried out for the Indiana State University team but was cut.

That turned out to be a blessing for Speer. It allowed him to help his cousin, former BNL and Indiana University star Damon Bailey, with his basketball camps during the summer and jump-started his coaching career.

“I knew I wanted to coach, and I wanted to teach social studies,” said Speer, now the coach at Columbus North. “It freed up my time to coach AAU basketball and help Damon out with his camps.”

Bailey and Speer have been collaborating on a camp at North over Christmas break since Speer became head coach of the Bull Dogs five years ago. This year’s Damon Bailey Holiday Camp will be from 9 a.m. to noon Monday for boys and girls in Grades 1 to 8.

Bailey, who led BNL to the 1990 state championship and is the state’s all-time leading high school scorer, began conducting about 15 to 20 camps each summer across the state after graduating from IU in 1994. He does only two a year now — one at Garrett during the summer and the one at North.

“We started doing these years ago for the kids, and day to day, that’s what it’s about,” Bailey said.

Speer was the varsity assistant at BNL when Bailey coached the boys team there in the mid-2000s. They used to do a camp at Foundation For Youth but moved to North High School after Speer began coaching there.

“Once I became the head coach here, and Damon’s schedule seemed to pick up, the holidays worked best,” Speer said. “We’ve had good turnouts here, and we’re happy to have him.”

“There’s a lot of history there,” Bailey said. “It’s a sports town that really supports their teams, not just basketball, but football and the other sports.”

Bailey is now the girls coach at BNL, which is ranked No. 1 in the state in Class 4A and No. 11 in the country by USA Today. He was an assistant when the North girls beat the Stars in the 2011 regional final and when BNL downed the Bull Dogs last year on its way to the 4A state title.

North junior Ali Patberg has played on Bailey’s summer team for several years, and junior Debie Gedeon and freshman Imani Guy were fill-in players on the 17U team this summer. Sophomore Paige Littrell is on Bailey’s 15U team.

“The girls program there at North has had a lot of success the last couple of years,” Bailey said. “(Columbus) East being in our conference is a very good team, and (East senior) Allyson Bunch played with us when she was younger.”

Speer and North girls coach Pat McKee said kids in Columbus can benefit from Bailey’s camp.

“Damon is a wealth of knowledge, and I would encourage a young kid if they’re here in town to go,” McKee said. “Damon is really good with kids. He explains things in a way you can understand. I’ve watched Damon work with kids for quite a while, and he does a great job.”

“Just to have the opportunity to listen to a legend in Damon and what he has to offer kids is really invaluable,” Speer said. “He’s a very positive role model. As a parent, you’re always looking for positive role models, and Damon is one of the best.”

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