Maryland women add Bays to 2010 class
In his 18 years as the head coach of the West Virginia Thunder AAU girls basketball program, Larry Lambert has developed a knack for identifying talent at a young age.
When Whitney Bays walked into his gym as a 10-year-old girl from Huntington, W.Va., Lambert thought she had Division I potential. By the time Bays was 13, Lambert was absolutely convinced of it.
“When she first came out, she wasn’t really tall,” Lambert said. “She was the size of most other girls. But I could tell she was going to be a really good ballplayer from the beginning. By the time she was 13 years old, there were certain things that she could do that most girls can’t do. I knew right then that if she stuck with it, she was going to be a really good basketball player.”
Lambert’s predictions were proven correct, as Bays developed into the No. 24 player in the country according to one scouting service and earned scholarship offers from numerous Div. 1 programs. On Monday, Bays committed to Maryland, picking the Terps over Georgia. A 6-foot-2 forward, Bays averaged 25 points and 12 rebounds per game for Huntington High as a junior, leading the Highlanders to a runner-up finish in the West Virginia Class AAA state tournament.
According to Lambert, the Terps started recruiting Bays during her sophomore year. Bays is “real loyal,” Lambert said. Being there from the beginning paid off for the Terps in the end. UM's on-court success didn't hurt either.
“She’s interested in winning,” Lambert said. “She wanted to go to a school that has a chance to win the national championship. They had a real good recruiting class, and when she went down [to College Park] and visited, she hit it off with all the girls. She had nice things to say when she got back. The coaching was really personable and that helped sell her on the program. That’s a real hard-working staff.”
Bays’ father, Gery Strickland, was a standout at Marshall in the late 1980s. The 6-foot-6 forward undoubtedly passed on his basketball-playing genes to his daughter, Lambert said. Like her father, Bays is an excellent rebounder and versatile scorer.
“For a big girl, she can handle the ball pretty well,” Lambert said. “She can help against the pressure and she has sure hands. She’s got a fairly decent outside shot. She needs to work on her 3-point shot. Up until this year, I played her more inside. She’s got really good moves down on the blocks when she gets the ball. It’s pretty hard to stop her in the post area. But she’s a real competitor. She just hates to lose.”
Bays tore her ACL in July, forcing her to miss the majority of the AAU season. Rehab is going well, Lambert said, and it’s just a matter of time before Bays is back in action with an eye on starting her Maryland career next fall.
“She’s going to be a tremendous collegiate player,” Lambert said. “People down there will love watching her play.”