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Bailey Puts His Revised Game Plan Into Action : Basketball: Ex-Loyola High star steps out of a commitment in hopes of upgrading his college prospects.

August 06, 1995|SEAN WATERS | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

One summer ago, on the driveway in front of their Ladera Heights home, Toby Bailey and his younger brother Ryan (Moose) Bailey played a fierce one-on-one basketball game. John Bailey, a compassionate father who has orchestrated his sons' athletic careers, gave shooting tips while watching from the brick front porch.

"You know why they jump so high?" John Bailey said, jokingly. "I used to tie a pork chop above the rim and tell them that was dinner."

The two combatants stopped the game and headed inside--for dinner.

Toby Bailey, who was the 1994 City Times Player of the Year while a senior at Loyola, received a scholarship to UCLA. As a freshman, he would later help lead the Bruins to their first NCAA title in 20 years.

Moose Bailey was a senior-to-be at Loyola, prepared to replace his older brother as Loyola's team leader and most lethal scorer. Moose welcomed the challenge to prove that he was more than just Toby's younger brother.

"Every time someone mentions my name, they mention my brother," Moose Bailey said. "It's good in some ways because I get additional publicity that I would not normally get. It's bad in other ways because it gets on my nerves."

At the dinner table, John Bailey passed out photos of Moose Bailey's recruiting trip to the University of Portland. Said Bailey: "Doesn't he look good in purple?" referring to Portland's purple-and-white uniforms. Moose Bailey also talked about playing for former UCLA star Michael Holton, an assistant at the time to Portland Coach Rob Chavez.

Despite signing a letter of intent in November, Moose Bailey determined that only the rock star formerly named Prince looked good in purple. The fact that Holton left to become an assistant at Oregon State aided his change of mind.

"At the time, it seemed like the place to go," Moose Bailey said Tuesday about the Portland offer. "I wanted to play for Coach Holton. But when he left, that made my decision a lot tougher. Nothing against Coach Chavez."

John Bailey was instrumental in Moose's decision to withdraw from his scholarship obligation and begin seeking a better offer.

"He's a nice dude, he really is," John Bailey said of Chavez. "It's just that by the end of his high school season, I noticed a tremendous growth in Moose's game. He started to leap higher and he is a lot quicker. I didn't want to close the door on Portland, but I also wanted to give my son the opportunity to reach his highest potential as a ballplayer."

While 6-foot-6 Toby Bailey earned praise as the prize prospect of the 1994 graduating class, Moose Bailey established himself as a bona fide high school point guard, which is in short supply. The 6-1 Bailey was hampered by a stress fracture in his left leg, but proved to be a dominating player much like his older brother. He averaged 18 points a game and led his team to the Southern Section Division I quarterfinals. He was named most valuable player in three holiday tournaments and was selected to the City Times' boys' all-star team and Mission League first team.

"I've always known that I could play," Moose Bailey said. "But this year I realized how good I could be because Toby wasn't there. Last year, I used to get open shots because they double-teamed Toby. This year, they double-teamed me and I still hit my shots."

Chavez said he harbored no ill will toward Bailey and would release him from the commitment, so as not to force the young player to give up a year of eligibility.

Bailey, now 6-3, appears comfortable with his decision.

During the July evaluation period, Bailey caught the attention of coaches from several prestigious Division I programs. He played on the California team at the Boston Shootout with incoming freshmen Paul Pierce of Kansas, Tommy Prince (UCLA) and Jelani McCoy (UCLA). Bailey also attended the Adidas/ABCD camp in Teaneck, N.J., and was named one of the top 25 players at the Slam-n-Jam National Invitational Tournament. He averaged 18.3 points, eight assists and 5.6 rebounds in nine games while playing for the Washington (D.C.) City Line AAU team.

"Moose did very well in the Long Beach tournament," said Kevin Hargrove, who coached the Washington, D.C., City Line AAU team. "I cannot understand why UCLA is not all over him since they need another point guard and his brother plays there. I know a lot of the Atlantic Coast Conference schools are looking at him."

Bailey also plays with brother Toby, Pierce and Duke swingman Rick Price III for the Hollywood Nuggets in the Say No Classic summer league at Cal State Los Angeles.

"What I like about Moose's game is that number one, he can now get to the cup," said Rick Price Jr. who coaches the Nuggets with John Bailey. "For a penetrating point guard, there is no greater skill than to be able to break down opposing defenses with a drive to the basket. Number two, he has increased his shooting range. And finally, he is a much tougher player."

While his father dreams about his two sons being reunited at UCLA, Moose Bailey realizes he may be better suited to play for an ACC team such as Maryland.

"I think about playing against [Toby] in college," Moose Bailey said. "I would like to be on a team that comes down and beats UCLA."

Said John Bailey: "Oh, come on, son, you don't really mean that?"

Bailey against Bailey. With an NCAA title, not pork chops, at stake.

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