By: Nick Snow, Special to USA TODAY High School Sports | March 31, 2017
PHOENIX – Right before Victor Bailey Jr. took the court for his final dunk in the American Family Insurance High School Slam Dunk Championship, one of the electrical crew members for CBS checked the electronic devices on Bailey’s backside.
Those devices? They measured hang time and distance.
And after seeing Bailey’s first two dunks, the crew member wanted to make sure that he and CBS got all the data they would need from the McNeil High School (Austin, Texas) senior.
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“The guys hooked us up,” Bailey said. “It shows you how high you jump and your hang time. On one of my dunks, I had a 41.5-inch vertical. I don’t know if I’ve ever jumped that high before, but it was a really cool experience.”
It could have been his second jump, where Bailey had to use every last inch of his finger tips to haul in a high bounce. Or maybe it was the 360 from just inside the free-throw line that sealed win over Anthony Duruji, of St. Andrews Episcopal School (Potomac, Md.), with a perfect score of 40.
Either way, the judges – which included Villanova’s Kris Jenkins, Michigan’s Derrick Walton – seemed almost in disbelief with the Bailey’s performance.
“It’s just crazy to see how athletic these kids are these days,” Jenkins said. “As you get older and the kids get younger, they jump higher. I’m not a dunker, but I definitely wish I could fly like those guys.”
And it wasn’t just Bailey – who finished with three perfect scores in three rounds – that was doing the flying. Jalen Adaway’s reverse dunk over men’s 3-point competitor Cooper Neese in the first dunk of the competition set the tone for the event.
“I’m a competitor and I really wanted to win,” Bailey said. “I also wanted to have fun, but winning was the object. It was some tough competition, so I just tried to do the best that I could and it came out well.”
What really set Bailey apart was not necessarily the heights he reached or the creative approach he took to his dunks. It was how he refused to settle for anything less than the dunk he was going for.
“A lot of guys try to do stuff and they miss it,” Bailey said. “My goal was to make it and make it look good. You always have backups, just in case. One of the guys actually took one of my dunks, so I had to do something else. Luckily it worked out.”
With the competition now over, the Oregon recruit is hoping he gets to see one more title before heading back to Texas – a national title for his future team.
“It makes it a lot sweeter, knowing that they’re here,” Bailey said. “I’m going to be so happy walking into open practice with a big gold trophy. And for them to get the win, would be even better.”