Bailey Russell is just the latest member of the Benton girls basketball program to sign her national letter of intent to play college basketball.
On Friday, Russell penned with William Jewell to play for the Cardinals.
“It’s really exciting,” Russell said. “When the season ended, I didn’t know if I was going to continue to play basketball. So it’s really awesome being able to.”
Russell joins fellow seniors Mia Henderson, Jayde Williams and Gabby Fuller to sign a national letter of intent.
“It shows that all of our hard work paid off,” Russell said. “I’m really proud of everyone that got to sign and I can’t wait to see what they do.”
During her senior season, Russell helped the Cardinals to a 23-3 record. During her four seasons, she was part of a state championship team and more than 90 wins.
She also dealt with injuries that might force some away from basketball permanently.
Russell tore both of her ACLs during her first two seasons with Benton.
“To tear both of them and then come back, I would say probably 99 percent of the time, that doesn’t happen,” Benton coach Kerstyn Bolton said. “Most kids would’ve quit or they would’ve decided to do something else. She came back from both of those injuries and was really resilient. The fact that she’s moving forward to play basketball at the collegiate level is really remarkable.”
The Cardinal standout returned for both her junior and senior season, helping the Cardinals to 46 more wins and a few more trophies along the way.
“It’s really satisfying,” Russell said. “I think a lot of people doubted me. It’s good to show them that I can still do it.”
The former Cardinal guard will play for coach Jill Slominski, who enters her 24th season as William Jewell’s head coach in the GLVC, one of the top conferences in Div. II women’s basketball.
“I really liked William Jewell’s community,” Russell said. “It’s really small and I like the coach a lot. She made me feel welcome.”