Bailey Gong’s bigger brother Andrew Gong cast a long shadow as last year’s All-Tulare County boys tennis player of the year.
When he graduated, Andrew left behind some big shoes for little brother Bailey to fill. But despite his size — or lack thereof — Bailey never hid well in that long shadow as a freshman, and he filled out those big shoes quite nicely as a sophomore.
Following in Andrew’s footsteps, Bailey continued the Gong dynasty as the 2014 Times-Delta/Advance-Register All-Tulare County boys tennis player of the year. He finished as the Central Sequoia League singles champion before steamrolling his way through the Central Area singles tournament without dropping a game. Seeded No. 7 at Valley, he dispatched of No. 10 Christopher Wallace from Bakersfield Christian 6-0, 6-1 before narrowly losing to No. 2 Dylan Simonsen 7-5, 6-4 in the quarterfinals.
“It was pretty fun,” Bailey Gong said of his season. “It was different from last year. I had to kind of be the head of the team this year. Last year I could kind of just sit back and let my brother do everything. I kind of had to step up and be more of a leader and kind of pump up the guys and be motivational.”
Bailey Gong was already making noise as a freshman. His sophomore season results were nearly identical to those in his first year at the high school level: Unblemished run through Area followed by a trip to the Valley quarterfinals.
The only difference? A year ago he settled for CSL singles silver instead of gold. That title went to Andrew Gong, of course, although it did little to eclipse Bailey’s brilliance. As it turns out, a shadow not only fails to darken a firecracker, it actually makes the light seem brighter.
“I could kind of be my own person, but everyone definitely remembered Andrew — yeah Andrew, he’s cool,” Bailey Gong said. “It was kind of a big spot to step up into, but I was okay with it.”
Keeping that spot in the family came natural to Bailey Gong. CVC coach Mark McAlister describes him as a great kid who is humble, works hard and never complains.
The only thing he lacks is stature.
“Exceptionally gifted guy,” McAlister said of Baily Gong. “He’s still in the process of developing his game — that next level. He can rally with anybody. He still needs to develop a weapon, a big shot to compete with top players. Has to work double hard to finish guys off.”
Bailey Gong admits being smaller than most of his competitors can be a disadvantage, but it hardly discourages him. As it turns out, his fighting spirit is as bright as his game.
“It kind of makes me feel good about myself because I can play with these guys and I’m a lot smaller than them,” Bailey Gong said. “In some ways it’s kind of a disadvantage and in other ways it’s good mentally.
“Hopefully I’ll grow but I don’t think I’ve grown much in the past year. You never know though.”
One thing is certain: Bailey Gong will be a dominant force in Central Section boys tennis for two more years. After consecutive trips to the Valley quarterfinals, he is determined to advance to at least the semis next season.
Whether that growth spurt comes or not, this firecracker could even explode into the championship.