The legend of Amari Bailey sprouted in a preseason scrimmage with nobody watching and nothing at stake moreover the respect of his coaches and teammates.
A shot caromed off the rim. Bailey sprinted towards the basket from the nook. The freshman guard rose for a putback basket that swung a taut recreation completely in UCLA’s favor.
“He was two feet above the rim and that put us up five and salted the game away,” mentioned Bruins coach Mick Cronin, recalling the latest scrimmage towards San Diego State. “We’re talking about a guy known for having all his talent with the ball, here’s a guy soaring up there to make a hustle play to win the game and that’s after playing major minutes. You would think he would be somewhat tired and he’s playing against 22-year-old and 23-year-old guys and he’s 18.”
Bailey isn’t up and coming. He’s right here.
Perhaps not for lengthy.
“I don’t see him being here much longer than six more months,” junior guard Jaylen Clark mentioned of his precocious teammate.
A McDonald’s All-American from Chatsworth Sierra Canyon Excessive who was ranked because the nation’s third-best combo guard in his highschool class, in keeping with 247 Sports activities, Bailey is perhaps exceeding early expectations primarily based solely on his willingness to be taught.
“If I tell him one thing, I don’t have to tell him again,” senior guard David Singleton mentioned. “That’s the maturity level that he’s at. And it’s really rare to see a young guy have that.”
In his first two months on campus, the 6-foot-5 Bailey has busied himself mastering ideas reminiscent of studying the appropriate angles to maintain his man in entrance of him defensively and making the proper reads within the choose and roll.
“I’m the baby on the team, so I’m really just still getting acclimated,” mentioned Bailey, who gained’t flip 19 till February. “Coaches in practice tell the guys all the time, ‘He’s a freshman.’ So that’s helped me. And I’m really just trying to soak up as much as I can, being a sponge.”
A few of the most dear classes have come from the veterans. Senior small ahead Jaime Jaquez Jr. has supplied each day classes in relentlessness. Senior level guard Tyger Campbell informed Bailey that open areas shut up a lot faster in school than in highschool.
Bailey as soon as performed for a similar Nashville-based membership group, We All Can Go, that produced Campbell.
That’s, till the coach lower Bailey as a fourth-grader.
“I definitely appreciate him to this day,” Bailey mentioned of the coach, “because I definitely say that gave me more of a hunger knowing that you could be replaced at any given time.”
Bailey has already proved indispensable as a Bruin provided that some qualities constructed into his demeanor can’t be taught.
“Amari’s got an inner toughness about him that’s really going to propel his career that I haven’t seen in a freshman,” Cronin mentioned. “Like at San Diego State, when the game got tougher, he got tougher. When the game got more physical, he got more physical.”
Bailey additionally possesses a uncommon selflessness for somebody so extremely touted.
“Most McDonald’s All-Americans don’t defend and [instead] hunt shots cause people tell them that’s how they gotta play to get drafted,” Cronin mentioned, “but he knows that that’s not basketball. He’s a basketball-savvy guy, very intelligent guy. He gets that you can have a great game and have eight points, eight assists, eight rebounds.”
Heading into UCLA’s exhibition recreation towards Concordia on Wednesday evening at Pauley Pavilion, Bailey mentioned he’s simply attempting to take advantage of his time as a Bruin, irrespective of how lengthy — or quick — that keep is perhaps.
“This is a dream school of mine,” Bailey mentioned. “So just being able to have some pride while I’m wearing the four letters, really. … I know what I did in high school doesn’t matter. I’m starting from square one again and really just learning the game.”