CHATSWORTH, Calif. — March 10, 2020 is a date Sierra Canyon junior guard Amari Bailey will never forget. The Trailblazers were on a high, having taken down Etiwanda in the CIF Regional Finals.
The game came down to a buzzer beater from then senior forward, Ziaire Williams.
What You Need To Know
- Junior guard Amari Bailey is ranked as the No. 1 shooting guard in the class of 2022 and recently committed to UCLA
- Led by juniors like Bailey and Shy Odom, Sierra Canyon has won 58-straight league games through the 2021 season
- MacKenly Randolph, who is the daughter of former NBA player Zach Randolph, and Izela Arenas, who is the daughter of former NBA player Gilbert Arenas, are playing on the Sierra Canyon girls baksetball team this season
- This season is an abbreviated one for high school basketball teams in California, but will still feature playoffs
As the team celebrated their win on the hardwood, Bailey's emotions were on full display — his excitement palpable and his mindset eager for their next game at the State Championship.
However, that game was his last with Sierra Canyon for more than a year.
“When I got the news, I was crying the whole time," he said. "I couldn’t really believe that was our last game. It was a tough experience for us all.”
Over the last 12 months, he and thousands of other high school basketball players practiced and waited, anxious for the state to allow them to play once again.
Despite the challenges, Bailey stayed committed.
“I would definitely be in practice like damn, when are we gonna get to play a game?" he recalled. "All I could do is control what I can control, and that’s to get better every day.”
This season Bailey has been charged with taking the reins of the Sierra Canyon team. While an elite group of seniors typically leads the Trailblazers, its juniors like Bailey who are in the spotlight this time around.
“Everything is going to fall on me," Bailey said. "Some things, I may not think that it’s me, but I’m the example for everyone. Whatever I do, everyone else is going to mimic. So taking full accountability and responsibility for everything that happens with the team is something I'm working on.”
For the left-handed sharp shooter, that means setting the tone in practice and on game days because to Bailey and his teammates, though the season might look and feel different, the expectations are the same.
“Every time I step on the floor the main objective is to win," Bailey said. "I’ll say it firsthand, I’m a sore loser. Anything I can do to help this team win, I’m gonna do.”
In a year that has already been full of challenges for high school athletes, Bailey is playing for something much bigger than himself.
He has dedicated the season to Terrence Clark, a friend of Bailey's and former Kentucky basketball player, who passed away in a tragic car accident earlier this year.
“Everyone that knew TC knew he would shake the room and light up the room every time he came in," Bailey explained. "It’s heartbreaking and devastating, especially knowing he was inches away from getting where he wanted to go, but I got it for him from here. It’s do it for 'TC 5', that’s what we’re going by, that's how we’re going to live."
As the number one ranked shooting guard in his class, playing for the number one ranked program, Bailey's goal is simple — win.
“Just to continue the Sierra Canyon legacy," he said. "A lot of teams think this is their year to knock us off, but I’m here to tell you, that’s not gonna happen.”
A player that all together is truly one of a kind, fitting in perfectly to a high school basketball season that is anything but normal.
The Sierra Canyon girls are also taking care of business in 2021.
It is never easy being a first-year player. For Mackenly Randolph and Izela Arenas, when they step onto the court, the bar is already set high.
Randolph’s father is former NBA All-Star Zach Randolph. Arenas’ father is Gilbert Arenas, also a former NBA All-Star.
“I think it’s good because you don’t really see two NBA daughters together, in the same school,” Izela said.
Sierra Canyon has recently been the brand name in high school basketball with plenty of NBA sons gracing the roster, but Mackenly said she and Izela are embracing the opportunity to change the game.
“Just like the Sierra Canyon boys it's been very big ... like LeBron and D. Wade and all that. So now ‘Z-Bo’ and Gilbert Arenas’, so we just want to make a name for ourselves and prove that we can be as good as them and even better,” Mackenly said.
The girls are best friends but a force to be reckoned with on the court. At the heart of both their games is that competitive nature, and with names like theirs, living up to the Trailblazers’ name is second nature.
Their coach, 4-time state champion Alicia Komaki graduated 6 seniors last year and this year has 11 players on her roster, 6 of whom are first-year players. Her team might be young but there are no excuses in Chatsworth.
“We always want to put a banner in the gym. Whether that is a league championship, a CIF championship or a state championship. Our expectations are pretty lofty. But we always know we’re going to get the right kids that are going to be capable of doing those things and reaching those goals,” Komaki said.
As for Izela and MacKenly, proving themselves has been less about their last names and more about teamwork.
“Knowing that my coach has my back, my teammates have my back, everybody in the basketball facility is like just amazing people," Izela said. "And we’re going to have a great season this year."