Thirteen seconds. That’s how long it took Sierra Canyon Trailblazers star guard — and Chicago native — Amari Bailey to drive to the paint in his sold-out homecoming game against undefeated Glenbard West High School Hilltoppers and find his open teammate Dylan Metoyer in the corner for the game-winning three pointer at the buzzer.

Junior guard Metoyer’s buzzer beater handed the Hilltoppers their first loss of the 2021-2022 season with the final score of 67-64, breaking a 64-64 tie that came from a split pair of free throws by Glenbard West senior guard Paxton Warden just moments before.

Saturday night’s Chipotle Clash of Champions was one of the hottest Chicago events of the weekend. After months of buzz surrounding the Los Angeles-based Trailblazers trip to Chicago, tickets to the Clash sold out immediately after they were made available on Ticketmaster. 

The two-game matchup started with a 72-48 Glenbrook South High School win against Curie Metro High School, followed by the headlining Trailblazers with its much-talked-about roster including junior guard Bronny James, eldest son of NBA superstar LeBron James, who finished with 18 points on six made three-point field goals; and senior Bailey, the second-ranked high-school hooper in the country, who led the team with 19 points. 

Bailey’s performance on Saturday night electrified the star-studded Wintrust Arena crowd featuring the likes of Chicago Bulls stars DeMar Derozan and Javonte Green, rap superstar G Herbo, Bulls legend Derrick Rose’s eldest son P.J. and Kenwood boys basketball coach Mike Irvin, who coached Bailey on a club team. 

With an explosive first step, excellent court vision and a knack for making the right basketball play, Bailey may have etched his name into Chicago boys hoops lore forever.

The path to local legend status is available for all Chicagoland prep hoopers; a combination of individual stats, overall team success, local and national recognition and stellar performances against top-tier talent in the area separates the good players from the exceptional. Bailey has already met that criteria, albeit in California

Despite no longer living in the Windy City, Bailey, a 6’4” guard with easy athleticism and superb court vision, has some previous experience battling against Chicago’s heavyweight boys prep teams. On Jan. 14, the Trailblazers dominated Whitney Young High School in an 81-49 victory in the semifinal round of the 2022 Bass Pro Shops Tournament of Champions held at the JQH Arena in Springfield, Mo. Bailey led his team, scoring 20 points along with 10 rebounds. Whitney Young Dolphins senior forward A.J. Casey, a four-star prospect and University of Miami (FL) committee, finished that game with nine points. 

The Dolphins are one of only a few teams in the nation to face-off against both Sierra Canyon and Glenbard West. On Jan. 22, Whitney Young was defeated by Glenbard 74-59 in a neutral non-conference game at the When Sides Collide Shootout held in Lislie, Ill.

For some ballers, the high school level is the peak of their basketball career. That does not appear to be the case for Bailey. As of now, he is ranked the second-best recruit overall, the first recruit in the state of California, and the first best shooting guard, according to ESPN’s 100 Recruiting Rankings

Amari Bailey’s performance on Saturday night electrified the star-studded Wintrust Arena crowd. Photo by Mike Hicks for The TRiiBE ®

Although the ESPN 100 Recruiting Rankings are not always a prerequisite for stardom, it has given the public an early indication of a few future men’s basketball stars. Look no further than Chicago Bulls rookie star Ayo Dosunmu, a Morgan Park High School alumnus, who was listed as the best overall player in Illinois in 2018. Los Angeles Lakers guard Talen Horton Tucker joined Dosunmu on the list as the third-ranked player in the state that year. 

Another standout is 6’7” forward E.J. Liddle, a Belleville West High School alumnus. Liddle was ranked number one in Illinois in 2019. He’s gone on to live up to that ranking.  

In Oct. 2021, Liddle, now a third-year player for the Ohio State University, was one of four unanimous selections to the preseason All-Big Ten team. Had Bailey remained in Chicago throughout his high school career, he would have potentially been the second-highest ranked boys basketball prospect from the state of Illinois since Jahlil Okafor was ranked first in 2014,  according to ESPN

It wasn’t too long ago that, a then-eighth grade basketball sensation, Bailey made a verbal commitment to playing collegiate basketball at DePaul University in August 2017. Yet, the commitment would be short lived.

Bailey announced from his Instagram account in March 2018 that he was decommitting from DePaul. After receiving athletic scholarship offers from the University of Illinois at Champaign, the University of Michigan, the University of Kansas, and the University of Alabama, he would ultimately decide to sign with the UCLA Bruins in February 2021

Although Bailey didn’t play for a Chicago high school, his showing at Saturday night’s Chipotle Clash of Champions left a lasting impression and gave Chicagoans a glimpse of what’s to come from him.

is a freelance contributor for The Triibe.