Amari Bailey’s moment has come. How far will it take him and UCLA?

His ethos can be found in big black letters under his right bicep.

“No Vanity,” reads the tattoo.

It would be so easy to treat yourself just a little right now.

Amari Bailey is no longer a rising college basketball star. He is here.

With every deft move to the basket, every defensive stop, every pass that finds a teammate in the perfect spot, the UCLA freshman guard elevates an already formidable team into a potentially unstoppable force at just the right time.

He’s become so invaluable that his coach lamented his failure to give him the ball in the Bruins’ 68-63 win over Northwestern in the second round of the NCAA tournament.

“What did Amari have?” Mick Cronin said afterwards, scanning the box score for the score. “Fourteen. I was hoping for 18. But it’s my fault he didn’t get enough shots. I’m still working to find out.”

Luckily for the Bruins, Bailey is more than capable of getting his own shot. He turned around Northwestern’s Boo Buie for a fastbreak layup, pinned a knight at the bottom of the shot clock and pocketed a three-pointer to give his team the biggest lead of the game.

Along the way, he showed that UCLA’s offense no longer consists of Jaime Jaquez Jr., Tyger Campbell and whatever the team can find.

“Believe Amari Bailey’s appreciation,” said Northwestern coach Chris Collins. “I thought he really stepped up and gave them a great performance as a third goalscorer.”

It wasn’t an anomaly. In the five games since Jaylen Clark suffered a season-ending lower leg injury, Bailey has averaged 17 points, including a career-high 26 against Colorado in the Pac-12 tournament. That average is nearly double the 9.6-point average Bailey had before Clark’s injury, and lets Bruins fans understand they’re more enjoying his presence during what is said to be a short stint in college.

UCLA’s Amari Bailey (left) and Jaime Jaquez Jr. battle for a rebound with Fletcher Abee of North Carolina Asheville in the first round of Thursday’s NCAA tournament.

(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

“I will make mistakes and I’m here to learn from everyone to really just be a sponge and soak up everything I can and take advantage of every day I get here.”

– Amari Bailey on how he approaches his game

How much longer could he stay?

“I’m really just focusing day-to-day,” Bailey recently told The Times when asked if he would like to go to the NBA or return to UCLA for a second season. “You know, I’m going to cross that bridge when I get there. Right now my focus is on winning Banner #12, that’s my #1 goal.”

He’ll have to do his best to see the blue and gold fabric soar in the Pauley Pavilion, taking on each exponentially tougher challenge. Next up for the second-place Bruins is a regional semifinals at T-Mobile Arena against either third-place Gonzaga or sixth-place Texas Christian.

Anyone who thinks Bailey is just a goalscorer isn’t looking closely. His lockdown defense against Wildcats’ top player Buie kept him without a field goal in the first half and seemed to make him uncharacteristically passive before cracking up in the second half. Buie finished on 18 points but made only five of 13 shots and was so out of form that he missed a gimme layup with 13 seconds left that sealed the Wildcats’ fate.

Bailey also drove and played early in the game to get Adem Bona in the middle for a dunk, showing off his elite passing skills. Yes, his three turnovers were the most on the team, an ongoing trend that has those hoping Bailey will come back next season hoping he’ll fix that issue before moving up to the next level.

One aspect of Bailey’s game that’s NBA-worthy is its competitiveness.

“I love guys who play hard because they’re getting better,” Cronin said. “You can brush up on the other stuff when a guy comes in. As if I were a front office executive [in the NBA], if I couldn’t get the answer to that, I might care less about length, dexterity, height, height. When I watch a guy and he doesn’t have a ticker and he’s not going to compete physically, I can tell you that guy doesn’t stand a chance in the NBA because these guys play hard for all their drama, man.

Bailey was a big brand before stepping onto campus, having amassed most of his 565,000 Instagram followers. But he didn’t make anyone great or lose himself in his own fame.

“Honestly, I never get into any of that,” Bailey said of getting caught up in the hype. “I see myself first and foremost as a person. I sometimes catch myself how I might be perceived, but at the end of the day I’m a 19-year-old kid just figuring it out like everyone else. I would say I will make mistakes and I’m here to learn from everyone to really just be a sponge and soak up everything I can and take advantage of every day that I get here.

Bailey studies every teammate and even watches Russell Stong IV’s moves in practice. Top players who stay connected with the Walk-Ons have kept the locker room uniform without forming cliques based on the number of stars someone received in high school.

“I’ve never played on a team where we were so tight-knit,” said Bailey, “we really only wanted what was best for each other — it didn’t matter what we were going to do personally, it didn’t matter what we were going to do when we got off the floor.” get up, as soon as we get between the line or get to the practice facility, get on the plane or whatever, there’s an instant clearance so I always look forward to that.”

Two more weeks if all goes well.

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