Warriors junior sharpshooter Bailey Hooker loves a challenge

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Tue. January 17, 2012 | Laura Keeley | Email

Warriors junior sharpshooter Bailey Hooker loves a challenge

LUTZ — When coach JR Allen was holding up rolls of Charmin Ultra Soft toilet paper during games and typing up mock scouting reports detailing his team’s weaknesses, Steinbrenner’s future may not have looked so bright.

But thanks to those early teaching moments, the Warriors are among the elite teams in Hillsborough County.

It doesn’t hurt that Steinbrenner (15-2), a third-year program, boasts the top scorer in the county: junior Bailey Hooker, who averages 21.6 points.

Just like her team, Hooker has followed a steep growth curve the past three years, from homeschooled star of the Citrus Park Christian varsity team to legitimate Division I prospect. The 6-foot sharpshooter credits her breakthrough season to another one of Allen’s motivational tools.

“He gave me goals for summer shooting,” Hooker said. “It was a list with 20,000 3-point shots, 20,000 free throws, 15,000 pull-up jumpers, 5,000 layups.”

In between summer vacations and AAU tournaments with the Florida Angels, Hooker and teammate Gabby Sebastian were able to make significant progress on that list. Oftentimes they would wake up early and go to L.A. Fitness, where they had the chance to work on another facet of their game: toughness.

“You’ve got grown men playing in there,” Allen said. “She’d mix it up with them. She held her own.”

“At first, it was intimidating,” Hooker said. “We were like, ‘Are they going to let us play? Are they going to be weirded out to guard us?’

“It was cool. At first they were like, ‘Oh, it’s just a girl,’ but then we started making shots, we started driving to the basket, but then they’d have to call out, ‘That’s the shooter.’ ”

Hooker’s search for the best competition dates to her homeschool days. Her mother, Jeanne, who taught in public schools, homeschooled all four of her daughters, with Bailey third in line.

Meanwhile her dad, Roy, coached her in YMCA leagues and on teams at Berean Academy and Citrus Park. He realized when Hooker was in seventh grade and shooting 100 free throws in the driveway five nights a week that she had the desire to be great.

And that she needed a better coach.

“I thought then with the right coaching, with that motivation, she may be able to go somewhere,” Roy said. “I’m a good junior high coach, but I’m not a varsity coach.”

Hooker’s game has matured under Allen, who has done some growing himself, coaching girls for the first time when he took the job three years ago.

When Allen thought his team was soft the first year, he held up a package of toilet paper whenever someone got knocked down during a game or threw up a weak shot. This fall there were 6 a.m. practices three days a week.

The Warriors have reaped the benefits of the past three seasons of work. While schools such as Auburn, South Carolina, Cornell, Lehigh, East Carolina and others have expressed interest in Hooker, her focus is on the present.

“We can do big things this season,” Hooker said. “It’s crazy to think about it, but compared to last season we’ve taken huge steps forward, climbing that ladder.”

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