St. John’s basketball: Kadaja Bailey’s deserved NCAA Tournament bid

St. John's basketball wing Kadaja Bailey (Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports)
St. John's basketball wing Kadaja Bailey (Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports) /

St. John’s basketball senior Kadaja Bailey deserved this NCAA Tournament bid. 

Kadaja Bailey is the longest tenured player on the St. John’s basketball team.

She has scored 1,443 points in her career and played in 145 games, a program record.

Thursday night will be her first NCAA Tournament game but the destination did not come easy.

St. John’s, a team once ranked in the Associated Press Top-25 after a program best 13-0 start, hit the skids and dropped back-to-back games in mid-February against Villanova and Marquette, two games that would have helped the Red Storm’s tournament probability.

Bailey scored a combined 12 points in the two losses, shooting 4-of-17 from the field.

Head coach Joe Tartamella, who’s known Bailey since she was 8-years old, pulled her aside and asked, “What do you want your legacy to be?”

“It was the last chance for her to show she could be a winner.”

Her response?

A team-high 20 points in a stunning road upset against then No. 4 UConn, a game which eventually pushed the Johnnies into the NCAA Tournament.

ALSO READ: St. John’s knew it belonged in NCAA Tournament

“It means a lot, probably more than I can put into words,” Tartamella said about seeing Bailey reach the NCAA Tournament.

Performances of 15 points and nine rebounds against Georgetown and 15 points and eight rebounds against Providence followed for the Long Beach, New York native as the Red Storm closed the regular season on a three game winning streak.

“It’s not because of what I said,” Tartamella explained of his senior’s resurgence to end the year.

“To have a kid who stayed for five years, who believed in the program that helped build her, and gave her a chance to get her degree which she’ll get in May, that will be the part that I will be prouder of than anything she’ll do over the next couple of weeks from a basketball standpoint.”

Her basketball run begins in Columbus, Ohio against Purdue in the First Four.

St. John’s basketball star ready for her NCAA Tournament debut

“It feels great,” Kadaja Bailey said of making her first NCAA Tournament.

“I always wanted to go there as a freshman, and now that I am going there in my last year, it feels great.”

Bailey likely would have heard St. John’s name called as a sophomore during the 2020 season in which the Red Storm were 19-12 (11-7 Big East) and finished in a tie for third place in the conference, but the tournament was canceled because of the pandemic.

ALSO READ: St. John’s eyeing Rick Pitino as next head coach

The 6-foot guard is averaging 13.3 points, 4.6 rebounds, 2.8 assists, and 1.0 steals per game in her final season in Queens while shooting 43.5-percent from the floor and a career-high 37.3-percent from 3-point range.

“For someone who has been loyal, grown up here, and matured tremendously here, it’s exciting to see her out there as her final chapter,” Tartamella said.

Tipoff between St. John’s and Purdue is scheduled for 7:00p.m. ET (ESPN2) as No. 6 seed North Carolina awaits the winner.