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The Daily Wildcat

Tucson, AZ

The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Bayless deserves respect

    Arizona guard Jerryd Bayless goes up to shoot against Stanford guard Landry Fields in Saturdays 67-66 loss to Stanford in McKale Center. Bayless has scored at least 30 points in his last three games and is averaging more points per game than standout freshmen O.J. Mayo, Kevin Love and Derrick Rose.
    Arizona guard Jerryd Bayless goes up to shoot against Stanford guard Landry Fields in Saturday’s 67-66 loss to Stanford in McKale Center. Bayless has scored at least 30 points in his last three games and is averaging more points per game than standout freshmen O.J. Mayo, Kevin Love and Derrick Rose.

    Jerryd Bayless purses his lips slightly and squints his eyes, making a true game face if there ever was one. He extends his hands at his side to slap the hands of his teammates as he walks by them in what can only be described as a Bayless bounce.

    More than 14,000 spectators cheer for him, as they feel the effect of his swagger.

    And that’s just when he’s introduced to the crowd in McKale Center before a men’s basketball game.

    He’s not cocky, just confident. Not conceited, just focused.

    Then when tipoff comes around, the freshman guard locks in his crosshairs on the opponent and for the next 40 minutes of game time, he gives everything in his power to ensure a win. He’s vocal, he’s aggressive, he assists, he shoots and he scores. A lot.

    In Arizona’s last three games, Bayless netted an authoritative 103 points, including a 39-point effort Feb. 10 against ASU -ÿhis hometown college – earning him the Pacific 10 Player of the Week Award. The rest of the team scored 100 points in that same span – 45 percent of that coming from forward Chase Budinger.

    Bayless is Eddie Murphy in “”The Nutty Professor,”” putting on an entertaining and heartfelt performance with the help of a very talented cast in Jada Pinkett Smith, Dave Chappelle and singer Montell Jordan. If Bayless could play five roles at once like Murphy did in the movie, America might take instant notice of the 19-year-old who is averaging 21.1 points per game – second-most in the Pacific 10 Conference.

    Instead, the bigwigs of the sports industry spend all their time talking about freshmen like O.J. Mayo, Derrick Rose, Kevin Love, Michael Beasley and Eric Gordon.

    Those are fine athletes to dance on the tips of everyone’s tongues, but Bayless really does deserve to be in the nation’s fave five freshmen, if not the top two or three.

    Draftexpress.com has him pegged as the No. 3 pick in its 2008 mock NBA draft, behind Beasley and Rose, but he’s not being talked up like he should be. The nation’s top sports magazines aren’t writing blown-out features about him. ESPN SportsCenter isn’t running any specials about him.

    But they should be dying to cover him.

    Bayless is averaging more points per game than Mayo (19.5), Love (17.3) and Rose (13.6) and has put up more 20-point games (15) than any of the aforementioned, save for Beasley, who has surpassed the 20-point mark 19 times.

    Gordon has hit the same mark 15 times, but he’s done it over 24 games. Bayless has done it over 21.

    Bayless has also scored more than 30 points four times this season, more than all of his freshman foes besides Beasley (seven times), who has also scored 40 twice this season.

    “”He’s in attack mode most of the time,”” said UA interim head coach Kevin O’Neill. “”He plays hard.””

    O’Neill said he’s seen better freshmen than Bayless – maybe Beasley – but in his 11 years of experience as a Division I head coach at four different schools, he said he’s never coached a better freshman.

    What’s more, Bayless drops buckets for the school with the No. 1 strength of schedule in the nation, according to the Ratings Percentage Index. Going down the list of the hardest schedules, USC (Mayo’s team) is No. 9, UCLA (Love) is No. 21, Memphis (Rose) is No. 28, Kansas State (Beasley) is No. 34 and Indiana (Gordon) is No. 75.

    Shouldn’t it mean something if you can score in a more dramatic fashion than others in your class and you’re doing it against tougher opponents?

    Though all six freshmen will likely make it to the NBA and shine, none of them have the off-court demeanor that Bayless has. Along with Love and Gordon, he doesn’t have tattoos running down his arms – he has his on his back, away from the public eye. He dresses like a pro before and after games, not to mention the suits and ties he sported when he was sidelined with a knee injury.

    A player’s appearance can say as much about him as a person as his moves on the court can say about him as a player.

    Bayless reflects the highest degree of maturity, as a human being and as an athlete.

    But even if his suits and ties aren’t getting noticed now on a national level, No. 0 will grab America’s attention in due time.

    That’s how a man named Gilbert Arenas did it.

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