Bailey Pasta was born to play basketball.
That’s not hyperbole or cliché.
Carroll College's junior point guard from Nampa, Idaho, has a memory of dribbling two basketballs -- one in each hand -- as a 3 year old.
Her mother, a longtime hoops and Michael Jordan aficionado, recalls her first word being “ball.”
She’s the daughter of two basketball coaches, a family that spoke hoops so much that during Pasta’s senior year they mandated a “no basketball talk” after their car lurched to a stop in the garage from Pasta’s high school games.
Even then, basketball was inevitable as they equipped their home with a film room, filled with bean bag chairs and TVs.
Born to play basketball could, in truth, be an understatement.
Now in her junior year, as she leads the Saints’ attack, glimpses of her basketball past, present and future meld. Draping her right shoulder, a tattoo honors the movie "Love and Basketball" -- with different stylized lettering and a heart and number 3 replacing the O and E in love. The tattoo is dipped in her high school roots, hence the No. 3, her high school number. And when she attacks, she shows fans her current skills. Then, almost as if to complete her own version of the three-man weave, the tattoo also bonds her with her mother, who shares a matching tattoo and often talks with Pasta about the future and coaching together.
Pasta, as a 1 year old hugging her mom’s sides at AAU tournaments and around southern Idaho at basketball games, looked like a surefire prospect from a young age.
Saints coach Rachelle Sayers thought so, too. Had the practice been in place, Sayers might have offered her a scholarship as an adolescent.
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Sayers assisted at Weber State when she first saw the Pastas: Mom, coaching the Idaho Elite Basketball Club and Bailey roaming the courts, sometimes getting a chance to play a possession or two.
“We would all joke in the stands that we were going to recruit little Pastas,” Sayers said. “I was one of the few in the group that would hang out that was still in coaching.”
Sayers kept close tabs on Pasta throughout her growth, though her player remembers specifically meeting Sayers when she was 7 years old. Pasta’s mom, Cindy, coached Skyview High School, which could attend Weber State basketball camps. Sayers actually got early glimpses of Pasta on the court as a 7 year old, as Cindy would toss Pasta into high school summertime games for a possession or two at the end of games.
“Coach (Sayers) was there and always doing the score clock,” Pasta recalled of the Weber State camps. “She would always say, ’Put your daughter in.’ I’ve always had the most respect for Coach since I was a little kid. She told me when I was 7 ‘I’m going to recruit you.’”
When Pasta became eligible for recruitment, Sayers kept her word.
“She just has an overall skill set that is really good for a point guard,” Sayers said. “She’s got 3-point shot, pull-up jumper, floater. Probably one of the characteristics that stands out the most is the court vision and court awareness. Great passer. Point guard that people love to play with. She gets very us excited.”
Even with the connection at such a young age, Pasta’s commitment to Carroll was not a foregone conclusion. It was summer before her senior year of high school and her college prospects hung in the balance. Pasta recalls these details specifically, laying in bed 10:30 at night when Sayers’ text message pinged her phone.
The two chatted about Pasta’s recruitment trip to Montana when Sayers left Pasta with a profound thought.
“She told me to always remember that blood is thicker than water,” Pasta said. “It stuck with me. You know what? She basically is my family and has been since I was little. That text message basically sealed the deal, and I’ve never told her that, but it did.”
Pasta committed in October, paving the way for a relatively stress-free senior season at Skyview. Pasta said she knew her senior year would be special -- special enough to culminate with the school’s only state championship and an undefeated season. Prior to her senior year, Bailey and Cindy made a promise: If they won the state championship and Pasta graduated with honors, they would ink matching tattoos, the same one now illustrating Bailey’s shoulder.
Her host family in Helena -- Jeff, Stacy, Paige and Bennett Springer -- have helped her on her path toward self-discovery. Pasta went through what most do when they leave their homes: A longing of familiarity. Eight hours away from Nampa could be frightening, but it also would give Pasta a chance to trail blaze.
“It’s kind of fun in your own way,” Pasta said. “Finding who you are as a person: That’s what Carroll has done for me. It’s given me a sense for who I am.”
That person? A competitor, Pasta says. “I’m a strong independent woman. I stay true to who I am.”
During her time at Carroll, Pasta has really paid close attention to Sayers’ teachings. The connection -- with Sayers having played guard at Weber State -- is an obvious one, but Pasta says the way Sayers thinks about the game is particularly nuanced.
“Her basketball mind, I am so fascinated by,” Pasta said. “She will come with a game plan the night before. I didn’t even think about that. We have one on one workout sessions and she teaches me different moves and things I can incorporate into my game.”
Pasta, if you haven’t already guessed by now, is on the road to becoming a coach. That’s part of the reason she studies Sayers. It’s partly destiny: Cindy, her mother, still coaches Skyview in Nampa, and her father, Dan McGree, used to coach, too. Pasta has been around coaching since she started forming memories.
“Everyone knows that I’m going to be a coach,” Pasta said. “I’m definitely going to be a coach.”
While at Carroll, Pasta said a big draw was to play for Sayers, but it came with an added bonus.
“I didn’t realize I was also going to get a family with it,” Pasta said. “We’re definitely a family. I love all of them. They will all be at my wedding someday.”
Sayers, too, recognizes that Pasta’s loyalty to her program is steeped in deep respect.
“If I told her tomorrow I thought it was in the team’s best interest that she didn’t play, she wouldn’t be happy, but she’d do what was asked of her,” Sayers said. “Her loyalty to her team and her coaches has always been unwavering.”
Pasta's passion for basketball is almost superfluous. She’s like an evangelical pastor; when she speaks about the game one listens and believes. As she starts to grow more in her role, gaining more leadership traits, Sayers said other players will keep listening, especially since Pasta and Cassidy Hashley have such a strong relationship.
“She wants to be more than anything the point guard that leads us to a championship, leads us to one of the best seasons we’ve ever had,” Sayers said.