November 18, 2000

The Silent Assassin

Nov. 16, 2000

By JOE TONE, Editor in Chief
The Santa Clara

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Freshman Kyle Bailey is sprawled out near mid-court in the Bellarmine High School gymnasium, his right leg angled awkwardly behind his 6-foot frame as he leans forward, bending at the waste like a broken-in Gumby doll. His pants cover most of his high-top Nikes and hang baggily down like a snot-nosed fifth grader tried to pants him, but could only finish half the job. The dark tattoo on his left bicep, which boasts his initials, of course, is covered by a "Broncos" warm-up jersey, but don't worry-the tat is definitely there. And so is the stigma.

The first thing they tell you about this 18-year-old freshman is that he's confident. Everyone is careful not to say cocky, but lightening quick to say confident, like it should go above the number 11 on the back of his first college basketball jersey.

"He's not lacking confidence," junior forward Justin Holbrook said.

"He's very confident," said Milo Griffin his high school coach.

"He's very bold and very confident," Head Coach Dick Davey writes in the freshman's bio. Everyone wants to label him confident, and though they're careful not to say it, some people seem to think this confidence is not his strongest suit, that he may not have the right to be this confident. Yet.

Bailey grew up in Fairbanks, Alaska, with his mother, Michelle Stalder, and two older brothers. In a town of only 30,000 - a town Kyle calls "the best city on earth" - when he wasn't up against one of his brothers or high school teammates, Bailey played his basketball against himself.

"I had to get creative because I didn't always have someone else to guard me," he said.

And when you're playing against yourself, you don't generally do a lot of smack-talking. Today, when he has a team full of college basketball players and the entire West Coast Conference to play against, Kyle still doesn't do a whole lot of talking.

"There's a certain peace he's always had about himself," his mother said. "He's very quiet."

But somehow, this quiet, peaceful kid is characterized as over-confident. Why? Because in practice he goes at all-conference guard Brian Jones with everything he has and a little extra? Because he yells the plays out and directs his teammates as he brings the ball up the court? Or, maybe it's because six minutes into his first college game, he took the ball, dribbled calmly up the floor, never looked right or left to pass and, as if he were hanging out on his Fairbanks driveway waiting for his mom to call him in for dinner, hoisted up a three-pointer with a defender staring him in the face. And drained it. Unfortunately for his critics, that's not being cocky. That's being good.

Bailey finished his first college game with 14 points. But Bailey's first college game finished when his man got around him and hit a game-winning lay up with nothing on the clock. And after his first college loss, guess what this cocky 18-year-old wanted to talk about?

"There was miscommunication (on the last play) ," he said of the game-winning shot. "I need to work on my defense."

That's what Kyle Bailey thinks about and talks about what he needs to do better. If you ask him, he'll tell you that on the court or in his dorm room, he's not thinking about how he's going to get start as a freshman, because he doesn't want to start. He's not thinking about how he can be the next Steve Nash or Brian Jones, even though that's what people say he wants to be. "We're different players," he said. And he's not thinking about what he's going to say when he hits a big shot in your face.

Because he isn't going to say anything at all.