High school basketball: Goodletts are double trouble for North’s opponents

Published 12:01 am Thursday, February 2, 2023

By Mike London


SPENCER— North Rowan’s basketball-playing Goodlett twins came into the world on Dec. 15, 2005.

A healthy Bloom arrived first. Bailee came 17 minutes later. Bailee was a “code blue.” Her heart stopped beating.

“They brought her back to life,” said the twins’ mother, Meagan Walker.

Bloom was 3 inches longer at birth, a height differential that has remained constant. Those 3 inches would determine their basketball roles for years to come.

Now North Rowan juniors, Bailee is a 5-foot-6 point guard, while Bloom is a 5-foot-9 forward.

They were formally introduced to hoops as second-graders. There are lots of stellar athletes on their family tree — Goodletts, Dixons, Daltons, Robinsons — so an aunt urged their mom to get the girls signed up for a youth league.

They showed up at Hall Gym for their debut, their very first practice — wearing velvet track suits.

“At the time, I didn’t know what a child should wear to work out,” Walker said with a laugh. “But I guess the rest is history.”

Bailee remembers being very nervous that first day. Bloom doesn’t stress about much. Her earliest hoops memory is turning cartwheels in the gym.

The girls enjoyed the league. They wanted more basketball. They joined the Team F.L.Y. (For Love of Youth) AAU team and they played ball through a program at Hanford Dole Elementary.

As sixth-graders at North Rowan Middle, things started to get serious. They played for the middle school jayvees. Their development accelerated.

“Bailee was asked to step up as point guard because of her speed and Bloom was asked to be big because of her height,” Walker said.

The Goodletts were part of North Rowan Middle championship teams in the sixth and eighth grades.

“And by the eighth grade, basketball basically took over their day-to-day life with camps, training, practices, AAU games and school games,” Walker said.

Their basketball careers at the high school level began with the late-starting 2020-21 COVID season. North’s new coach, Anthia Smith, had a squad of eight. That was counting three freshmen — the Goodletts and their cousin Brittany Ellis.

Playing with experienced players such as Hannah Wilkerson, Makiya McDaniel, Kamora Cannie and Chloee Stoner, Bailee quickly became known for her quick hands and quick feet. She averaged 10.8 points as a freshman, including a breakout game with 20 late that season against North Moore.

North Rowan won the 1A Yadkin Valley Conference title, but only got to play 12 games. There was no conference tournament. The state playoffs were conducted by random draw, and North was unfortunate enough to get Murphy, the eventual state champ, in the first round.

Bailee totaled 129 points in that short season. At the time, 1,000 for her career seemed a long, long way off. Bloom had an 18-point freshman season. Her season high was six points against Murphy.

“I think the biggest thing we learned from Coach Smith was how to excel even on such a small team,” Bloom said.

North Rowan was assigned to a new league — the 1A/2A Central Carolina Conference — for the twins’ sophomore season. The Cavaliers played most of that 2021-22 season with only seven in uniform. They couldn’t afford foul trouble or fatigue, so there were limits as far as the pace they could push and the defensive pressure they could apply. They still put together a phenomenal season — 20-9. They finished second in the CCC to 2A state champ Salisbury. They won two 1A playoff games, losing in the third round to eventual state champion Bishop McGuinness.

Early in her sophomore season, Bailee got on a roll, scoring 20-plus points in six straight games. She had 146 steals, 110 assists and averaged 18.4 points for the season. Her 534 points gave her one of the top five scoring seasons in program history. Only 2,000-point legends Sophilia Hipps and Stephanie Cross ever scored more for the Cavaliers in a season.

While she scored a ton, Bailee still defined herself as a defense-first player.

“The biggest thrill for me was playing lock-up defense,” Bailee said. “Lock-up defense leads to me stealing the ball. Stealing the ball gives me a chance to show how fast I am.”

With Bailee, Wilkerson and Ellis pouring in points, Bloom was able to settle comfortably into a role centered around her defense and rebounding.

“My favorite thing is the blocked shot,” Bloom said. “That pumps me up because it means they aren’t scoring on me.”

The twins’ junior season is unfolding now. Bailee is doing eye-popping things. She’s had games with double-figure steals.

A new coach, former Livingstone College standout Darra Walker, has been blessed with a more normal-sized roster this season. The Cavaliers have no shortage of healthy bodies now, and North has been able to increase the defensive pressure and the pace. It’s not unusual for North to score in the 70s.

With Wilkerson, one of the top scorers in program history now in the college ranks and starring at Columbia International University, Bailee has been asked to carry even more of the scoring load.

She’s been up to that challenge. She’s averaging 27.8 points per game. She’s on pace for the second-biggest scoring season in North history. Cross, who went on to play in the ACC at Maryland, averaged 29.2 in the 1993-94 season.

Bailee has scored in the 30s five times this season, She’s scored 40 points twice. In three games last week, she scored 115 points — 40, 35 and 40.

“My first two years, I guess you could say it was more of a learning experience with a lot of limitations because we had such a small team,” Bailee said. “Coach Walker has given me a green light to score, to drive, to steal and to lead the other girls on the floor as the point guard. I am working on being more vocal with the young girls. I think I am best at getting steals and driving for the short and mid-range floaters.”

Bloom also has been asked to take on more of an offensive role as a junior, and while she still prefers blocking a shot to making a jumper, she’s shooting more. She has delivered six double-figure games so far.

“I know I’m best on defense, and I do take it seriously,” Bloom said. “What I need to work on is having more confidence in myself as a scorer.”

North is 14-6. Three of the losses were to undefeated 3A West Rowan. North lost early to Albemarle, one of the top 1As and lost in the CCC to Salisbury, one of the best 2As. The other loss was in overtime on the road to a stout Wesleyan Christian team.

So the Cavaliers have ample reason to believe they can handle themselves well when it’s time for the 1A state playoffs.

Bailee said she feels the team getting closer and stronger every day.

When the twins are away from the basketball court, they do normal stuff. They hang out with family and friends. They play video games.

The twins also have another sport — track and field. They can roll on the track in the sprint relays, and they plan to help the Cavaliers, who placed second last season, get a state title in the spring.

The twins also are honor roll students who are preparing diligently for college.

Bloom loves art and has painting and drawing talent. Her dream is to use her sports knowledge to land a job at ESPN.

Bailee’s favorite class at North is “team sports” because that class gives her a chance to play ball with the regular students.

Bailee’s lone basketball scholarship offer so far came from Mars Hill, a South Atlantic Conference program that needs players, and it’s a full-ride offer.

She has visited the scenic Mars Hill campus in the mountains, she’s watched the Lions play, and she believes she could fit in fine there.

But Bailee may get more offers after this summer’s AAU season.

Her level of quickness and speed are rare, and with everyone concerned about her driving ability, she has worked to become a solid 3-point shooter. She made four from long range in a recent game.

While Bailee scored her 1,000th point not long ago, she’s already up to 1,192 — seventh in school history — entering Wednesday’s home game with Thomasville.

Those points add up quickly when you’re having 115-point weeks.