Former Vermilion Catholic standout guard Ashailee Brailey got an introduction to her new basketball home and teammates at Jones Community College in Mississippi last week, further putting her at ease about leaving her roots to pursue one of her lifelong objectives.
Brailey, a two-time Class 1A All-State selection, selected Jones after her senior season over a variety of options that included a preferred walk-on position at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, a partial scholarship from LSU-Eunice or Baton Rouge Community College.
“I’ve always wanted to play in college when I first started playing AAU in the fifth grade,” Brailey said. “It was something I wanted to do and hopefully make a career out of it.”
Brailey made the four-hour-plus trip to Ellisville, Mississippi, to take part as an instructor in a week-long high school team camp that enabled her to gain further insight into what it will be like to be on her own starting in August.
Brailey’s high school teammate and long-time friend, Kaylen Collins, signed with BRCC.
“It wasn’t a decision we made together,” Brailey said. “Going to the same college was never the plan. I felt like going to BRCC would have been the easy way out for me. If things hadn’t worked out, I could have just gone home. I’m going to have to like it here. It’s over four hours away.”
Jones didn’t resonate on Brailey’s radar until Missy Bilderback became the school’s head coach in late April, replacing Sandra Sumrall, who retired after 17 seasons.
Bilderback joined Sumrall’s staff as associate head coach after a successful 16-year tenure at Presbyterian Christian School in Hattiesburg and was elevated once Sumrall retired. Bilderback had a record of 482-117 with two Mississippi Association of Independent Schools state championships.
“I was Facebook friends with the new coach, and she messaged me about playing junior college,” Brailey said. “At that point, she had applied for the (head coaching) job. And when I was in Italy, my dad called and said he got the job and wanted me to visit. I loved everything about it.”
Jones went 19-8 last season and reached the Region 23 championship game, losing 84-64 to Itawamba. The Bobcats graduated four guards from last year’s team, making Brailey a prime candidate for early playing time.
“The coaches said they were looking for shooters,” Brailey said. “It will be hard. Just playing basketball, though, the game never changes, but it will be a transition for me.”
Brailey brings quite a résumé from high school, where she started for four years for VC coach Kim Guidry and scored more than 1,600 points.
Brailey was the team’s leading scorer during this past season’s run to the Class 1A state title game, averaging 24 points, six assists, five steals and four rebounds.
For the second straight year, she was named to the Class 1A All-State first team, was the District 7-1A MVP and All-Vermilion Parish MVP.
“It’s not too far from home, but far enough for me to become independent,” Brailey said. “There’s a family atmosphere, which is similar to Vermilion Catholic, but in a college setting. I’ll keep my options open and see what opportunities I have.”