Throughout the day, we'll take a look back at iconic figures — one per school — from Big Ten's basketball past. The third installment:
Whatever happened to ... Indiana’s Damon Bailey
Then: Longtime Indiana announcer Don Fischer said the hype surrounding Bailey’s decision to join Bob Knight’s Hoosiers was matched only one or two times in program history. He was that big of a deal. A star at Bedford North Lawrence, Bailey received special praise from Knight as an eighth- grader. The coach said he was as good as any guard on his current team. Bailey led his team to three Final Fours, including the state title as a senior in front of 41,000. He hit double figures in all 110 high school games. When he got to Indiana in 1990, Bailey immediately moved into the starting lineup and helped lead the Hoosiers to two Big Ten titles and a trip to the Final Four. He averaged 13.2 points during his Indiana career, finishing sixth on the school’s career scoring list.
Now: Bailey was the 44th pick overall, by the Indiana Pacers, in the 1994 NBA draft. But it didn’t take. After a failed attempt with the Pacers and another with the Cavaliers, Bailey spent several successful seasons in the CBA. He retired in 2003 and later returned to Bedford North Lawrence for a short stint as head basketball coach. Currently, Bailey owns a warehouse business in Bedford, Ind. His young daughter is a talented basketball player, but there will be some pressure growing up in Bedford with the name Bailey.
What they’re saying: “Legendary ranks high on the list of words cheapened by overuse. Damon Bailey is an Indiana basketball legend, a one-name identity in a state with several of those but only two who played their way to first-name familiarity. Damon. Oscar. That’s pretty much it. As a player, Hoosiers consider Oscar Robertson nonpareil: two-time state high school champion, three-time College Player of the Year, All-American and national scoring champion; as a pro, a man who triple-doubled so commonly there wasn’t such a term. Four years into his NBA career he was averaging a career triple-double. Damon’s fame is more high school, and more legend. ‘Fame’ is no more overstated than ‘legend.’ Google ‘Damon’ on the national Web-based Wikipedia and see what name comes up first — ahead of Damon Wayans the TV actor, ahead of Johnny Damon the baseball player, ahead of Damon and Pythias of literary legend. Damon Bailey became a national name when Sports Illustrated ran a major feature on him after learning Bob Knight had gone on a 50-mile round trip twice to see him play as an eighth-grader.” — Bob Hammel, legendary sports editor at the Bloomington Herald-Times