Maintaining the legacy of the program is something that is very important to the Gloucester Catholic community.
The program has seen great success under the leadership of coach Lisa Gadaka. Many were unsure on if the program could continue it's winning ways with the graduation of her daughter Mary as she went on to continue her career at Villanova.
Their prayers got answered when Azana Baines decided to transfer in as a sophomore. The program hasn't skipped a beat since her arrival. Baines is a tremendous talent with tons of upside. The versatile forward can play down low or create in space away from the rim. She's extremely creative off the dribble and uses a wide array of moves to befuddle opponents guarding her. It's no surprise that Azana is ranked top 40 in the class of 2019.
Recently we sat down with Baines to discuss the AAU circuit, playing for Gloucester Catholic, why she should be Player of the Year in New Jersey and more. - By Christian Mordi / @thedribbledrop
TheDribbleDrop: This spring you played AAU basketball for the Books and Basketball. How was that experience?
Azana Baines: It was a really good experience. We are sponsored by Adidas, so we will be on the gauntlet next year as well. I played with coach Antwon. He has a lot of connections and he makes sure his players get exposure. Last year we won three or four tournaments that we went to. I’m excited for what we have on board for this year
TheDribbleDrop: You have a ton of talent and could’ve played at any high school you wanted after you left Highland. Why did you decide to transfer to Gloucester Catholic?
Azana Baines: Leaving Highland wasn’t about the basketball side of things. We decided collectively that it was best for my sister and I to go to a school that had a bit more structure. We wanted to go to a school that provided more of a challenge academically.
TheDribbleDrop: You play for Coach Lisa Gedaka. Tell me about that experience? What's the best piece of advice you got from her thus far?
Azana Baines: Coach has really pushed me to take my game to another level. One thing she always focuses on me with is the mental side of the game. She pushes me to lead our team not just by example but verbally in games. She always stresses balance in my game. To excel on offense and defense. Our relationship is pretty good. She also helps me with the recruiting process.
TheDribbleDrop: Last year you averaged 16 points per game as a sophomore. What did you learn from your experiences last year?
Azana Baines: Last year was different. I got to play alongside three other division one seniors. It was a lot of unique players with a lot of experience. It was coming over here and learning their way of doing things. They also played a fast pace, which I loved. I didn’t struggle with the transition here though.
TheDribbleDrop: How would you describe Gloucester Catholic basketball?
Azana Baines: Hardworking. A lot of people boxed us in and said we couldn’t have beat some of the teams we did this year. Even though some people may think we don’t have the talent of last years team, we never give up. We go at everyone no matter who they are.
TheDribbleDrop: A couple weeks ago you broke the 1,000 point mark. Tell me about that day and was that a goal coming into the season?
Azana Baines: One of my goals were to hit the 1,000 point mark this year. I had 600 or so coming into the season even though I sat 30 days when I transferred. It meant a lot to me to break 1,000 this year.
TheDribbleDrop: If you were to highlight one facet of your team that makes you guys stand out, what would it be and why?
Azana Baines: I would say my ability to break defenders down off the bounce is my greatest strengths. People do say that I am a well rounded player, but I love to attack people off the dribble.
TheDribbleDrop: Prospects Nation has you ranked top 40 in your class overall in the class of 2019. How do you feel about that honor and what do you think it is that separates you from the pack?
Azana Baines: Being is ranked is nice, but I don’t pay things like that too much attention. I don’t bring a different game against a player that is rated higher than me or lower than me. I give anyone I am going against my all. I don’t let things like that determine my effort. That’s what I feel separates me from the pack. My determination. Every day during the summer I hit the courts and play with the guys around my way. I play against guys that are bigger and more athletic than me and I adapt. That make me more comfortable when I go up against the girls.
TheDribbleDrop: What’s your personal and team goal for your junior year.
Azana Baines: To improve my game. A team goal would be to make it to states and win a championship.