Rifle passes? No problem
25-foot three-pointer? Bank it.
Sure, Bailey Cummins doesn’t have the most intimidating frame in the world. However, her basketball IQ and her overall skill set is off of the charts — and when you’re playing basketball, especially at the point guard position, that’s all a coach can ask for.
Maybe that’s because of a lucky penny that she keeps in her sock.
More than likely, it’s simply because the senior has an excellent feel for the game that rivals the very best to ever play at Shawnee State.
Going into her last season as a Bear, the four-year guard has posted double-figure outings during each of her seasons at SSU while averaging at least 3.8 assists, 2.9 rebounds, and 1.1 steals per game in every season. She’s not posted less than 12.8 points, 4.5 assists, four rebounds, and 1.2 steals over each of the last three campaigns.
Her comfort level in all areas of the game, however, is arguably aided by a fit that she sees as optimal.
“It’s felt a lot like home,” Cummins said. “I came from a small school with a lot of support from the community in basketball, and it’s like that at Shawnee State. It’s not a huge school, but we have such good support in everything that we do. I definitely feel that it’s a women’s basketball school, and to be a part of that is something really special. I’m thankful that I got the opportunity to come here.”
From the start, it was clear that Cummins was going to be a rare breed, considering the age that she started playing high school varsity sports. As a seventh-grader, Cummins made the varsity softball roster, and as an eighth-grader, the talented multi-sport athlete earned a starting spot on the hardwood.
In the latter sport, especially, Cummins never looked back from that point on forward.
Immediately, the eighth-grader came to play, averaging 8.8 points on 52.4 percent shooting and a 40.7 percent showing from three-point land to obtain marks that either led the team or were among the team’s top-two overall. She averaged 16.3 points per game as a freshman, then posted 16.2 points per bout on higher efficiency (49.8 percent shooting) as a sophomore.
Three years into her high school career, Cummins had already accomplished more prior to her junior year than most ever could hope to. However, her numbers during her junior and senior seasons were what elevated Cummins’ high school career from a great one to one of legendary air.
In those campaigns, Cummins averaged 23.1 points and seven rebounds per game while shooting 48 percent from the field, then added in 22.5 points and 6.1 rebounds per night on an outstanding 56.3 percent shooting mark from the floor to claim the 10th Region’s Player of the Year honors as a senior — which automatically put Cummins in as a Kentucky Miss Basketball Finalist.
By the time her career had finished at Bracken County, Cummins had led the Polar Bears to 90 wins in five seasons — an average of 18 wins a season — and led Bracken County to two 10th Region All ‘A’ Championships each in softball and basketball.
The success, however, paled in comparison to the individuals that she got to know, such as Madison Kalb, Sara Sticklen, and Jordan Wills, among many others.
“Playing basketball and softball was so much fun at Bracken County,” Cummins said. “Without a doubt, I love college and playing basketball here at Shawnee State, but I do still miss high school basketball. Softball was fun while I still played, but obviously basketball was my passion so I didn’t play my last two years of high school. I had great girls to play alongside that just had fun with the game like I did. I made so many memories over those years that I won’t ever forget. I don’t know how it’s already been four years since I graduated to be honest, but playing varsity for five years, I believe, was very good for me. I always played up so I got to play with more experienced and very talented players that we had at Bracken. I got to watch a lot of players and learn from them, and then not only getting to watch them, but play alongside them, helped me a ton.”
As her college career has molded into a legendary one of its own, Cummins has taken bits and pieces from them while continuing to work on her own craft all of the time.
During her freshman season, the Northern Kentucky native ran the show for a 2016-17 SSU squad that won its first 14 contests en route to finishing with a 31-3 overall record and the school’s third consecutive Mid-South Conference Tournament Championship. She scored in double-digits in 20 out of 34 contests and posted seven or more assists in six different affairs to lead the Bears offensively while taking home Second-Team All-MSC honors.
Pretty impressive — for a freshman that had to adjust to the learning curve quickly while replacing four-year starter and the program’s all-time assist leader in Abby Feuchter.
“Time management,” Cummins said of her key to success. “I know that doesn’t necessarily have a ton to do with basketball, but college and college basketball was a completely different world for me coming out of high school. If you don’t have your stuff together off of the court, you won’t be able to perform your best on the court. That was big for me. Also, just getting used to the amount of time that it takes to work and get better at the game. (Jeff) Nickel is the most passionate person that I know when it comes to basketball. That was an adjustment playing for somebody like that as well, but in a very good way. You want someone like that who is coaching you that’s passionate about the game, and is going to push you to where he thinks you can go, even if you don’t think that you can.”
It’s only gotten better from there.
With the graduation of Jonessa Moore and Jen Arnzen from that strong 2016-17 unit, Shawnee State got out to a 5-3 start — with two losses coming by a combined three points. The Bears, however, behind their unselfish and heady floor general, rebounded and didn’t lose another game over the rest of the regular season.
For the year, Cummins scored in double figures in 27 of the 35 games that SSU played in during her sophomore campaign, while posting at least five rebounds and five assists in six contests, notching a 15-point, 12-assist mark against Pikeville during the year, and obtaining three 20-plus point outings in her first 10 games of the regular season.
Her efforts, which amounted to 13 points, 4.5 rebounds, 4.1 assists, and 1.8 steals per game on 48.1 percent shooting, led SSU to a national No. 1-ranking to end the year as the Bears ripped off 26 wins in a row, their second outright regular season conference championship in three years, and their fourth consecutive Mid-South Conference Tournament Championship. Cummins was named a First-Team All-MSC and a Second-Team NAIA All-American following the end of the season.
Her tight bond with her teammates throughout that campaign, along with the additional set of seasons that have bookended that memorable one, however, are what truly stand tall.
“My teammates have been everything for me from the time that I walked onto campus until now,” Cummins said. “I’ve made friends that I’ll have for a lifetime, and every year, the girls make it that much more enjoyable to grind with. I’ve been lucky to be a part of a team that’s gotten along so well, not only on the court, but off of the court as well. We have each other’s backs in every aspect, and I think that’s a big reason why we have always been pretty successful. I’ve always had great teammates, but they have been even better friends to me.”
From a wins standpoint, Shawnee State fell back to a 25-10 record during the 2018-19 season, but Cummins continued to up her play, averaging 12.8 points by scoring in double-figures 24 times, upping her assist mark by nearly one full dime per game (5.3 from 4.5), and pushing her rebounding total up to a 4.7 a night.
As a result, Cummins, for the second straight season, was named as a First-Team All-MSC honoree, and she bumped her honors up to Second-Team All-American after notching performances such as a 15-assist game against West Virginia Tech and a 22-point, 11-assist, 10-rebound statline. The junior also eclipsed the 1,000-point plateau, accomplishing the mark for good measure against Pikeville on Jan. 5.
“It was really special to me,” Cummins said of scoring the game’s first seven points to reach 1,000 against UPike. “I had a ton of family and friends that were able to come and see me accomplish it, and it was just really awesome seeing everyone there for me. I’m very fortunate to have had the support system that I do, and it just made the day that much more special.”
With a younger team in terms of age heading into this season, Cummins has had to take on an increased workload from a scoring standpoint offensively — and she’s done so successfully, averaging 17 points, 6.1 assists, four rebounds, and 2.1 steals for the Bears, who have defeated four ranked teams at the time that SSU faced off against them, including No. 13 Talladega, No. 14 MidAmerica Nazarene, No. 21 Thomas More, and the biggest win of the year for the Bears, a 79-64 victory over then-No. 1 Campbellsville on Saturday, Jan. 11.
The result? An 18-3 start and a No. 7 overall ranking heading into the regular season’s homestretch.
While Shawnee State has accomplished a great deal athletically, Cummins has also continued to stand out in the classroom. The two-time Academic All-MSC recipient has accumulated a 3.43 grade-point-average while majoring in Pre-Med as of the last update.
“Academically, Shawnee State feels a lot like home to me, as well,” Cummins said. “I’ve made some of my best friends in classes that I am so close to. Shawnee State’s not a school that is super large, but I like that aspect of it. The teachers really show that they care about you, not just as a student, but as a person. Every teacher that I have had has really been willing to help me when I have had to miss class for basketball.You won’t find that everywhere, but SSU is most definitely like that. I’ve been able to receive a great education while doing what I love, so I can’t ask for much more.”
With her previous seasonal accomplishments, Cummins is getting close to hitting rarified air over the course of her career. Her 599 career assists are second only to Feuchter’s 637, while her 1,634 career points (seventh all-time) have the 5-8 senior just 63 points away from the top-five in school history. Her free throw percentage (87.4 percent) and assists per game (4.8) marks will be all-time school records if they hold serve, and her 122 career starts stand as the fourth-best mark in program history.
Those stats are certainly marks that will be remembered long after the floor general leaves Shawnee State’s campus for the final time.
However, Cummins’ focus is completely on winning. After all, she’s started 122 games in her career for a reason.
“We have had a really good season and have been successful in a lot of ways,” Cummins said. “I just want to continue to get better everyday and reach the team’s full potential, because it’s going to be really special if we are able to do that. I want to bring the regular season championship and the conference tournament back where it belongs, and I want to go to a Final Four with my girls this year.”