By TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – It takes an extraordinary level of dedication, effort, and will to be a student manager at the Division I level of athletics. It takes the same level of work ethic, maybe more, to walk-on to a Division I team, often serving the program without much playing time or recognition.
For Cookeville native Bailey Gilliam, he's lived both lives in his short time on the Tennessee Tech campus, transitioning from student manager for the Golden Eagles men's basketball team in 2020-21 to walk-on guard for the purple and gold in 2021-22. To navigate those challenges through a global pandemic is just so much more impressive.
And the returning freshman has done so with an incredible display of leadership and team-first mentality.
"Bailey has displayed leadership since the day he joined our program as a student manager," Tech assistant coach Blake Gray expressed. "He has always been selfless and a relentless worker, which models the behavior that we want everyone to be about in our program."
After lettering four years at Cookeville High School and finishing fourth on the program's all-time scoring chart, Gilliam didn't have to think long or hard about where he would continue his education. The local product arrived on the Tech campus and immediately accepted a manager role, taking advantage of his opportunity to soak up the basketball knowledge of the coaching staff and using his spare time – when not assisting his future teammates with their games – to put in his own individual work in the gym.
"Bailey hasn't led the team in scoring, rebounds, or any other statistical measure, but he has a profound impact on our program," Gray added. "His energy, enthusiasm, and love for his teammates and Tennessee Tech is powerful and something he brings every day."
Through December, Gilliam had played in just three contests, but made those opportunities count. The 6-foot-1 guard is 2-for-2 from the floor in seven minutes of action, scoring five points and hauling in a pair of rebounds, including one on the offensive glass.
"Bailey's love for his teammates and Tennessee Tech is off the charts," Tech head coach John Pelphrey explained. "He is an everyday guy. He is always going to work hard, give great effort, have a good attitude and body language, and own the results, good or bad. He has a great impact on our program and shows that you don't have to be the leading scorer in order to be a leader. Everyone in the program loves and respects Bailey because of how he treats everyone and the amount of work that he puts in."
It is for these qualities and dedication that Gilliam is the recipient of the 2021 December Unsung Leader Award.
The Unsung Leader Award is selected from student-athletes, who have been nominated by their coaching staff, for exemplifying outstanding leadership qualities during a given month. The leadership can be shown on the field, in the weight room, at practice, in the classroom, in study hall, on campus, in the community, or for a student club or organization.
The award honors a varsity student-athlete who has made a positive impact on their team and the Tennessee Tech community as a whole, through his or her dedication to demonstrating leadership traits, such as:
- Keep learning, growing, and improving
- Follow through with excellence
- Accomplish more than expected
- Inspire and motivate others
Photo by Jim Dillon