The passion in Bailey Bateman’s life started early. To be exact, she was 4 years old.
Her first drawing was simple: an American flag. But her grandmother made it special with a small but important gesture — she framed it and put it on her mantel.
It’s something that Bateman never forgot. Today, she’s a junior middle blocker for a 7-0 Utah volleyball team, a squad off to the best start in school history. She’s one of the best defensive players in the Pac-12, a 6-foot package of timing and athleticism that enabled her to finish ninth nationally in blocks last year.
Art — and her ability to draw — is something she’s never lost love for, however. Today, she regularly tugs her portfolio around campus, and even on road trips. She majors in sociology, but takes art courses.
Utah coach Beth Launiere said she would be happy to allow Bateman to draw her — but jokingly said only if coach and player were on good terms that particular day.
“I like drawing people,” Bateman said. “That’s the best. I really like drawing what I see. I draw people, I draw tattoos. If I get an idea in mind, I really want to work for that.”
Since the day her grandmother framed that American flag, Bateman has worked at her craft and honed it. In a way, art has been in the family. The walls of her home in Hooper are adorned in art. Bateman’s parents always collected wildlife art. Bateman, a former standout at Fremont High, imitated a lot of what she saw in her drawings. She’s got a lot of deer antlers and skulls in her portfolio.
On the court, her athleticism makes her a standout, particularly because of her size. She’s able to make plays with her quickness and leaping ability. Her 188 blocks last season rank fifth on the school’s all-time single-season list. She was second in the Pac-12 in blocks, and is swiftly emerging as one of the better players in the Pac-12, one of the best volleyball conferences in the country.
“She’s a dynamic player as well as a dynamic personality,” Launiere said. “She’s someone who really came on for us last year as a sophomore. She made her mark in many different ways, and her offense is starting to catch up with her defense. Once she gets better offensively, she’s really going to start to take off.”
Winning seven consecutive matches to open the season has been an accomplishment. But the Pac-12 is a league with seven teams ranked nationally, six in the top 15. That makes wins tough to come by in conference play. But with Bateman, an imposing front line and a good amount of experience, the Utes are looking to qualify for the NCAA Tournament.
“I think that’s one of the reasons we’re doing so well,” Bateman said. “We had a lot of people who played over the summer and they gained valuable experience. It really shows with how we’ve started out. We have to get better from here. We have a tournament this weekend, so I hope we can be 10-0 when that’s finished.”
Bailey Bateman file
• Was a top-100 player nationally coming out of Fremont High in 2010.
• Averaged 1.54 blocks per set last season as a sophomore, second in the Pac-12.
• Had 182 block assists in 2012, third most in school history.
Utah vs. UC-Irvine
Friday, 4:30 p.m.
UVU Activity Center, Orem