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L.J. Baylor: a testament of courage under fire

He embodies the mantra, “courage under fire.” Foxes senior, forward/shooting guard, L.J. Baylor’s quest for post-season play has led him to the first round of the Region I, Division 4 playoffs, where the Foxes will host Smithfield. Due to press deadlines, results of the game were not available.

Baylor came into his own during the 2011 VHSL Group AA, Division 4 state

quarterfinals. With the loss of four key members of the team, Baylor posted 18 points, while pushing Liberty-Bealton into three overtimes. The six foot two senior rattled the cages of the Eagles, forcing them into a defensive posture on more than one occasion; however, the Eagles ultimately prevailed, 97-90. With the cloud of defeat, the Foxes discovered a clutch player, with leadership skills, and the skills to take the team to the next level. “We were down, and our key players had fouled out, so I had to step up my game,” Baylor said. “Since that day, my confidence level has grown, and I’ve been ready.”

Second year Fox varsity boys’ basketball head coach Joshua Luzier has witnessed Baylor’s rise to stardom. “Last year he started off the season not being able to find his place on the team. But once he got into the playoffs, regional competition, he came into his own.” Whether it’s practice or facing the toughest competition in area basketball, Baylor never fails to bring his A-game. “As soon as he realized his role, in a short span of time, he started to flourish. I knew we had a decent threat with him - shooting and driving. He opened my eyes this season, where he came ready to play,” Luzier said.

Last week, Baylor, along with six other area players - Chris Holmes, Te’Quan Alers, Julian Bumbrey, Henry Butler, Jaron Moore and Devonte Deans - were honored to represent the Battlefield All-District First Team. Baylor’s teammate, Damion Carroll was chosen for district second team honors.

For the past two seasons, Baylor has played a pivotal role in the Foxes’ ability to compete in the Battlefield. Although Battlefield District champion James Monroe held the upper hand this season by defeating the Foxes three times in a row, Baylor and his teammates have pushed the Yellow Jackets to the limit during the last two games. On Feb. 10, during the final seconds, the Yellow Jackets narrowly escaped defeat, winning 54-52.

On Feb. 15, during the district semi-finals, Baylor scored 28 points against the Yellow Jackets. As fate would have it, the Foxes’ rally in the final minutes fell short, and the team lost to the host Yellow Jackets, 76-70.

Baylor credits his interest in basketball to the long hours of practicing with his father, Jimmy Baylor. “Everything I’ve learned about basketball has come from dad,” Baylor said. “From the day I was able to walk, my dad has coached me.”

L.J.’s parents, Jimmy and Pamela Baylor, are devoted parents who have committed their support to their son throughout his athletic career.

Baylor, who is among the top scorers in the district this season, with nearly 400 points, is a grounded athlete who would rather tweak the finer points of his game, than bask in the limelight of past glories. After sitting the shadows of Wayne Wyatt, D.J. Lewis, Matt Mohr, Kelsey Monroe, and Carroll during the 2010-2011 season, he improved every aspect of his game to make him a true go-to-clutch shooter. “He has put a lot of work and time in,” Luzier said. “He recognizes that last year was a good situation for him. While he wanted to start, and play more minutes, he now realizes that last year is probably one of the best things that could happened to him.”

Other statistics that highlight Baylor’s impact to the Foxes include: consistently scoring 16 points per game; 135 rebounds, 44 assists, two steals, and 1.6 blocks prior to the district playoffs.

Baylor has not only proven to be one of the best players in the area, but he has won the confidence of his teammates and coaches as a player who is willing to put the team on his shoulders. “He has taking it upon himself to know and understand that he is that guy that we’re looking to go to,” Luzier said.

Leonard Banks
Sports editor

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