What’s next for USD basketball’s seniors?

For many student athletes, their collegiate playing careers are a culmination of a life’s worth of dedication to their sport. For even more, earning a scholarship to a Division-I university is the ultimate goal for their athletic endeavors.

Realistically speaking, not everyone can continue playing sports as a career once they leave campus. Being able to play college sports is the top of the mountain for countless young athletes. Anything beyond that is icing on the proverbial cake.

University of San Diego seniors Brett Bailey and Katherine Hamilton played their final games for the Toreros’ men’s basketball team earlier this semester. The team’s loss to the Portland Pilots on March 3 served as the end to a four-year span defined by improvement for Bailey.

As a freshman during the 2013-14 season, the 6’6” native of Spokane, Wash. played in all 35 games for the Toreros, averaging just over 13 minutes and three points per game.

As a sophomore, Bailey experienced a bit of regression. His playing time decreased slightly, as did his minutes per game, points per game, and his overall field goal percentage.

Following the departure of program legends Johnny Dee and Chris Anderson, Bailey’s junior year marked a crossroads for USD men’s basketball.

Helping fill the void left by Dee and Anderson, Bailey’s minutes per game more than doubled as a junior. He turned into an effective offensive player, one who now averaged 6.9 points per game and snagged nearly eight rebounds per 40 minutes of play.

Bailey also improved his free throw percentage, going from a career 43 percent shooter from the foul line up to 62 percent.

Bailey spoke about his approach to getting better and how that can apply to life off the basketball court as well.

Bailey looks to shoot among a sea of Portland defenders. Photo courtesy of USD Toreros

“I would say that hard work is the solution to any problem,” Bailey said. “Whether it’s a bad grade in the classroom or a situation in your sport that isn’t preferable, if you work hard and do things right, good things will come.”

Hard work was part of the reason for Bailey’s ascension from junior dependable starter to senior All-WCC Second Team player. The 2016-17 season was Bailey’s best at USD by far.

Serving as the lone senior on head coach Lamont Smith’s team, Bailey was given the reins to the Toreros’ offense. He ranked sixth in the West Coast Conference in scoring at 15.5 points per game.

Advanced stats also say that Bailey’s senior season was his best by a considerable margin. In his first three seasons playing in Torero blue, Bailey posted a player efficiency rating (PER) of 9.6, significantly below the 15.0 benchmark that represents an average player.

As a senior, Bailey’s PER soared to 18.8. Usage rate, a statistic that measures the percentage of a team’s offense that is run through a certain player, had Bailey at a rate of 18.2 percent for the first three years of his career.

For his final season, Bailey used 26.9 percent of the team’s offensive possessions. In other words, he was being asked to do more on offense, and while doing so he simultaneously became more efficient.

This combination of hard work and palpable improvement has drawn the eyes of talent evaluators.

“I just actually signed with an agent out of Los Angeles this past week,” Bailey said. “I’m fortunate enough to have some opportunities overseas in Europe or Asia, so I’m going to ride that out and see where it takes me.”

In many ways, Bailey is one of the lucky ones. He had the tremendous opportunity not only to play collegiate basketball for four years at a high level, but also to attend one of the West Coast’s most prestigious universities.

The latter part is what Bailey feels can help him succeed post graduation, even if that means giving up basketball at some point down the road.

“I think [USD] definitely has [prepared me well],” Bailey said. “Through sports and academics here, my eyes were opened to some situations and struggles that are very applicable to the real world.”

These real world applications do not only apply to the men’s team. Katherine Hamilton of the USD women’s basketball team also had her athletic career come to an end this semester, and plans on staying close to sports in her post graduate life.

During her time playing for the Toreros, Hamilton helped the team reach the Sweet 16 of the Women’s NIT twice.

As a senior, Hamilton averaged a career high 29.9 minutes and 9.4 points per game while also pulling down a personal best average of 4.13 rebounds every time she took the floor.

While Hamilton does not plan on pursuing sports in a competitive fashion after graduation, she will still be working in a sporty environment.

Katherine Hamilton rises up for a layup against BYU. Photo courtesy of USD Toreros

“I do not plan on playing professionally,” Hamilton said. “But I am currently interning for a sports management company. I feel like USD has mostly prepared me for the real world. The only thing I wish USD had is a sports management program.”

The end of the athletic road can lead to some tough decisions for athletes regarding their future. Hamilton offered a bit of advice for current USD athletes about how to handle that inevitable day when they take their uniform off for the last time.

“I think what has helped me so far is trying to look at it as now I have time to try new things and do things I wasn’t able to do before,” Hamilton said. “I joined an intramural volleyball team, and that was fun. It’s about filling that free time with stuff you’re interested in pursuing or doing.”

As any student athlete can attest to, the experience of attending a university and participating in athletics leads to a wealth of valuable knowledge about time management, focus, and perseverance.

But, as Bailey made sure to point out, there is always room to have fun in college in addition to grinding away in the athletic arena.

“Four years fly by,” Bailey said. “In the end, you want to be able to look back and say you enjoyed it.”

With eight combined years of NCAA basketball experience and 253 total games played, one can imagine that Bailey and Hamilton will surely be able to look back on their time in Linda Vista and say they enjoyed it.

Written by Matthew Roberson, Sports Editor