Young Westport sharpshooter was perfect when it counted

Bailey Howell sinks 25 straight free throws to win K of C state contest

By Jim McGaw
Posted 4/1/19

Bailey Howell admits she was a little down when she woke up the morning of Sunday, March 24.

The previous day, she had competed in the Elks Hoop Shoot Free Throw Contest in Portland, Maine. Bailey …

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Young Westport sharpshooter was perfect when it counted

Bailey Howell sinks 25 straight free throws to win K of C state contest

Posted

Bailey Howell admits she was a little down when she woke up the morning of Sunday, March 24.

The previous day, she had competed in the Elks Hoop Shoot Free Throw Contest in Portland, Maine. Bailey was the Elks’ Rhode Island champ, and she was squaring off against five other state champions.

In Maine, the 13-year-old Portsmouth Abbey student hit 22 out of 25 attempts to tie a Massachusetts girl in the 12-13 age division. In the five-shot tiebreak, however, she came up just short, sinking four while her competitor hit all five.

“I think I woke up in Maine on Sunday still a little sad, and then we had to drive for hours to Rhode Island,” said Bailey, who lives in Westport, close to the Tiverton line.

She was on her way to yet another free throw contest — the Rhode Island championships hosted by the Knights of Columbus. Bailey had qualified in her age group by sinking 14 out of 15 attempts to win a regional round at the Bradley School gymnasium in Portsmouth back in January.

Once she arrived in Warwick for the K of C state finals, she was in good spirits and ready to roll.

“I wasn’t nervous during my competition,” Bailey said. “I was looking to redeem myself from the day before.” 

And she did — with a perfect score of 25/25 to win the title for the second year in a row. No other competitor — boy or girl in any age category — could manage more than 22 free throws. The Knights crowned Bailey as an “international champion,” a rare feat, and she will be honored by the organization’s Supreme Council.

Her performance even surprised herself. “I knew I was going to do very well, but I was a little shocked I did that,” said Bailey.

Even so, it wasn’t her personal best for consecutive free throws made without miss.

“Forty-seven — in my garage,” said Bailey. “I have a homemade hoop. My dad was there with me.”

And how does she rate next to her dad? “We haven’t really compared each other, but I think I could beat him,” she said.

Bailey’s been playing basketball as long as she can remember — “as soon as I could hold a ball in my hands,” she said.

However, she didn’t really start shooting free throws seriously until last year, when she took part in the K of C competition. “That was my first year,” said Bailey, who plays on an Abbey team and has previously competed in various leagues.

However, she doesn’t see team play as being a big part of her future. “I don’t think it’s going to go very far. I like shooting more than playing. Shooting is definitely my strong suit,” said Bailey, who hopes to attend an Ivy League school after graduating from the Abbey.

As for the secret of her success? That would be practice, practice, practice. 

“I’ve been shooting every day since December, whether it be in my garage or Portsmouth Abbey — anywhere,” she said. “I try to repeat the same routine every time. It’s just about trying to get in the rhythm. Once I make three in a row, there’s no stopping.”

The ‘other’ Bailey Howell

If Bailey’s full name rings a bell with some older professional basketball aficionados, there is another “Bailey Howell” — a man who played 12 seasons in the NBA, including a 1966-1970 stint with the Celtics that earned him two championship rings. Now 82, Bailey E. Howell was a six-time NBA All-Star who was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1997.

While there’s no relation, there is a connection. 

“My dad’s dad was nicknamed ‘Bailey’ Howell because he really liked basketball,” Bailey said.

“She is named after my dad, whose buddies all called Bailey, referring to the basketball player Bailey Howell,” acknowledged her father, Jamie Howell.

It turned out to be prophetic, since Bailey E. Howell happened to be a terrific free throw shooter. He still holds Mississippi State records for single-season and career free throws made and attempted, as well as the single-game free throw percentage mark.

“I didn’t know that,” Bailey said.

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