HOMEWOOD — Relaxing wasn't part of the Christmas vacation plan for Samford women's basketball standout Andre Cournoyer. Rewarding was certainly part of the plan, though.

Cournoyer and her teammates played on the afternoon of December 21, beating Northern Colorado, 69-66. After scoring a team-best 26 points, she hopped in the car for a nine-hour trip to her Louisiana hometown. The next evening, she was one of the two guests of honor at a wedding rehearsal. On December 23, she married her fiancée, James Bailey. After celebrating Christmas with family, it was time for another nine-hour drive.

She left Homewood as Andrea Cournoyer. She returned as Andrea Bailey.

Three days later, playing her first game with her married name, Bailey scored 20 points in a 112-75 win over Birmingham-Southern. She also made life easier on the PA announcer.

"Everyone struggles with Cournoyer, so I think this is an easy transition," Bailey said.

Obviously, there would be a more leisurely time to get married for a college basketball player. But the December break fit the best for the Baileys.

"We had a lot of prayer and discussion about it," Andrea said. "My husband, he's going to be a state policeman in Louisiana. It was either this December or, with his schedule, it might be next December. We didn't want to wait that long, so we decided to go ahead and do it."

Basketball has played a big part in Andrea's life. The Merryville, Louisiana native joined her high school varsity team as a sixth grader and was a starter by the eighth grade. She scored more than 5,500 career points in high school, which, according to her bio on the Samford Athletics website, is the third most career points nationally and second in Louisiana. She averaged more than 32 points per game in each of her final three high school seasons.

Basketball is not what brought James and Andrea together, but it is an important part of their life.

"He actually didn't play basketball and knows almost nothing about it," Andrea said. "He's extremely helpful and extremely supportive. He rebounds for me, tries his best. I am very passionate about the game of basketball. I don't think it would work if he doesn't let me talk about it (away from the court). Sometimes I have my rants or emotional days because of basketball. He's there. He has my back."

After high school, basketball took Andrea to the University of Louisiana before she decided to transfer in 2020. She said that then-Samford assistant coach Jon Bollier reached out.

"It was during Covid," Andrea said. "It was kind of a weird process because there weren't any visits or anything. Coach Carley (Kuhns) and the staff are really personable. They did a Facetime group call with me. I think multiple teammates reached out and were like, 'Hey, you're going to love it here.' I could tell it was a family environment. That's why I picked it."

The 5-foot-4 guard immediately became one of the top players in the Southern Conference. She was the Southern Conference Player of the Year in 2020-21 after leading the conference with 18.4 points per game and directing the Bulldogs to a regular season championship. Last year, she was second in the SoCon in scoring at 16.3 points per game. This year, she is leading the conference again with 18 points per game.

Bailey leads a young team into Southern Conference play, with the opener coming on Thursday at 6 p.m. against Western Carolina in the Pete Hanna Center. The Bulldogs are 6-9 overall, but they've played a difficult schedule to get prepared for the SoCon.

"I think we're trending in the right direction," Kuhns said. "We have a ton of new faces this year, really only three veterans, I would say, returning from last season (Bailey, Sussy Ngulefac and Sanaa Redmond). Obviously, three talented players, and I think we did a good job of putting some pieces around those three to kind of help this program. And those kids are now just kind of coming into their own, figuring out their roles, figuring out how they can help this team and what the expectation of them is."

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