UCLA’s Amari Bailey is among the stars of March Madness 2023

His ethos may be discovered below his proper bicep, in giant black letters.

“No Vanity,” the tattoo reads.

It can be really easy to bask in just a bit now.

Amari Bailey is now not an up-and-coming school basketball star. He’s right here.

With each slick transfer to the basket, each defensive cease, each cross that finds a teammate within the good spot, the UCLA freshman guard is elevating an already formidable crew right into a doubtlessly unstoppable drive at simply the correct time.

He’s turn out to be so invaluable that his coach lamented not getting him the ball extra through the Bruins’ 68-63 victory over Northwestern within the second spherical of the NCAA match.

“What did Amari have?” Mick Cronin mentioned afterward, scanning the field rating for the purpose tally. “Fourteen. I was hoping for 18. But it’s my fault he didn’t get enough shots. Still working on figuring that one out.”

Fortunately for the Bruins, Bailey is greater than able to getting his personal shot. He spun round Northwestern’s Boo Buie for a fastbreak layup, nailed a jumper on the finish of the shot clock and buried a three-pointer to offer his crew its largest lead of the sport.

Along the best way, he confirmed that UCLA’s offense now not consists of Jaime Jaquez Jr., Tyger Campbell and no matter scraps the crew can discover.

“Give Amari Bailey credit,” Northwestern coach Chris Collins mentioned. “Thought he really stepped up and gave ‘em great production as a third scorer.”

It wasn’t an anomaly. In the 5 video games since Jaylen Clark suffered a season-ending lower-leg harm, Bailey has averaged 17 factors, together with a career-high 26 towards Colorado within the Pac-12 match. That common is sort of double the 9.6 factors Bailey had averaged earlier than Clark’s harm and makes Bruins followers perceive they higher get pleasure from his presence throughout what figures to be a short school keep.

UCLA’s Amari Bailey, left, and Jaime Jaquez Jr. battle for a rebound with North Carolina Asheville’s Fletcher Abee within the first spherical of the NCAA match Thursday.

(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

How lengthy would possibly he stick round?

“Really just focusing day by day,” Bailey lately instructed The Times when requested about going to the NBA or coming again for a second season at UCLA. “You know, I’ll cross that bridge when I get there. Right now, I’m focused on helping win banner No. 12, that’s my No. 1 goal.”

He’ll should be at his playmaking greatest to look at that blue-and-gold material rise inside Pauley Pavilion, rising to every exponentially tougher problem. Up subsequent for the second-seeded Bruins is a regional semifinal at T-Mobile Arena towards both third-seeded Gonzaga or sixth-seeded Texas Christian.

Anyone who thinks Bailey is only a scoring dynamo isn’t watching intently. His lockdown protection on Buie, the Wildcats’ greatest participant, stored him with out a subject objective within the first half and appeared to make him unusually passive earlier than he received going within the second half. Buie completed with 18 factors however made solely 5 of 13 photographs and was so out of kinds that he missed a gimme layup with 13 seconds left that sealed the Wildcats’ destiny.

Bailey additionally drove and dished to middle Adem Bona for a dunk early within the recreation, exhibiting his elite passing abilities. Yes, his three turnovers have been probably the most on the crew, a unbroken development that may make these hoping Bailey comes again subsequent season maintain out hope that he needs to repair that problem earlier than going to the subsequent stage.

One facet of Bailey’s recreation that’s NBA-ready is his competitiveness.

“I love guys that play hard because they get better,” Cronin mentioned. “You can polish up the other stuff if a guy will compete. Like if I was a front-office executive [in the NBA], if I couldn’t get the answer to that, I could care less about length, skill, height, upside. If I watch a guy and he doesn’t have a ticker and he won’t physically compete, I can tell you that guy’s got no shot in the NBA because those guys, for all their drama, those guys play hard, man.”

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Bailey was an enormous model earlier than setting foot on campus, having collected most of his 565,000 Instagram followers. But he didn’t big-time anybody or get misplaced in his personal superstar.

“I never get into all of that, honestly,” Bailey mentioned of getting caught up within the hype. “I view myself as a human being, first. I catch myself at times like from maybe what I may be perceived as, but at the end of the day, I’m a 19-year-old kid that’s just figuring it out like everyone else. I’d say I’m going to make mistakes and I’m here to learn through all of them, really just being a sponge and soaking up everything I can and just seizing every day that I get here.”

Bailey research each teammate, even watching Russell Stong IV’s strikes in observe. Top gamers staying linked to the walk-ons has stored the locker room unified, no cliques forming primarily based on the variety of stars anybody acquired in highschool.

“I haven’t played on a team where we were so cohesive,” Bailey mentioned, “really just wanted the best for each other — it didn’t matter what we had going on personally, it didn’t matter what we had going on off the floor, as soon as we got in between the line or come to the practice facility, get on the plane or whatever, there’s an instant release, so that’s something I can always look forward to.”

For two extra weeks, if all goes properly.