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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    “Bayless developing patience, maturity”

    Arizona guard Jerryd Bayless dunks a ball in a 69-50 win over Fresno State on Dec. 16 in McKale Center. Bayless is developing more patience and maturity as a freshman.
    Arizona guard Jerryd Bayless dunks a ball in a 69-50 win over Fresno State on Dec. 16 in McKale Center. Bayless is developing more patience and maturity as a freshman.

    You saw it over and over this season.

    Jerryd Bayless took over for the Arizona men’s basketball team as a scorer and a passer. He was a shooter and a driver. In short, he was a leader.

    Now, the team’s most valuable player, voted on by his teammates Monday night, prepares for his first NCAA Tournament as a freshman.

    “”It’s been different,”” Bayless said. “”I never thought coming to Arizona we’d be a bubble team, but it happened and I think things happen for a reason.””

    Take, for instance, opponents’ tougher play on Bayless toward the end of the Pacific 10 Conference season.

    That happens for a reason, too, right?

    Only naturally.

    It taught the 19-year-old guard how to be patient. It taught him how to shine through the times when teams started to figure out what his moves were after seeing him several times; when they learned that he could only break right, not left.

    And that’s when he took a step back to look at the whole picture, to take a deep breath and evaluate every situation.

    “”You gotta be patient at times and I think I’ve been patient at times and sometimes I start forcing things,”” Bayless said. “”But I think my patience has gotten better and that’s helped me out a lot.””

    Bayless, who scored 18, 15, 19, 20 and 15 points in the last five games, respectively, said seeing West Virginia on Thursday will make it easier to play because of the fresh faces. After a while, teams like Stanford – who Arizona played three times this season – start to figure you out.

    “”It’s been tough, but I think now that we’re playing a different team out of a different conference, hopefully they’ll slow down on me,”” Bayless said.

    UA interim head coach Kevin O’Neill agreed, saying the recent oppression of Bayless is due to the conference play.

    “”I can’t speak for (WVU head coach) Bob (Huggins), but I’m assuming Bob will look at a lot of our tapes to see how people played (Bayless),”” O’Neill said. “”It’s one thing to see guys one time than to watch them on TV. You’re much more familiar with your own people in your own league.””

    And even though people have been “”figuring him out,”” Bayless is still averaging 20.0 points, along with 4.2 assists and 2.7 boards per game.

    But maybe the players aren’t the only ones figuring Bayless out. The referees may be on to him as well.

    Leading the team in free throws (221) and charity tosses made (185), Bayless has a knack for getting fouled. He’s perfected a move in which he fakes the shot to get a defender to jump. Then he jumps and leans into the airborne defender and shoots, drawing a foul.

    But after a while, the move began to wear off.

    “”They’re not calling those fouls anymore,”” said UA guard Jawann McClellan. “”He’s not the only one that’s had to deal with this situation … but now we can play more physical. He’ll learn what can and can’t be called. It’s a sign of maturity and he’ll grow up.””

    O’Neill said that there’s no coincidence that the best players get to the foul line more often, rattling off a list of Pac-10 players like Stanford’s Brook and Robin Lopez, UCLA’s Kevin Love and USC’s O.J. Mayo.

    The coach said that Bayless’ fierce competitiveness will serve him well when he decides to go to the NBA.

    “”He’s a great competitor – one of the better competitors I’ve ever seen,”” O’Neill said. “”That’s going to serve him well as he moves along (to the pros). He’s had a great freshman year. When you average 20 a game as a freshman in the Pac-10, as good as it is, you can’t ask for more than that. He’s going to be a great player. A great player.

    “”But if he thinks that’s hard to deal with, wait till 82 games of that,”” O’Neill added, referring to an NBA-length schedule. “”That’s the way you get played for 82 games. And he’s a young guy so he gets a little emotional at times. But his maturity level will improve as he gets older and goes through more experiences.””

    But Bayless isn’t even looking that far into the future. His vision only goes as far as Thursday.

    “”Hopefully (the Tournament) will be a good experience and we’ll go out there and win some games and get as far as we can,”” Bayless said. “”That’s the main thing.””

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