2022’s Rayzhaun Bardo has plenty of Damian Lillard in his game | Youth1

2022’s Rayzhaun Bardo has plenty of Damian Lillard in his game

Rayzhaun Bardo is one of the best players from the Marion, Illinois area in the Class of 2022.


The 6-foot, 135-pound Bardo, who attends Marion High School, is an explosive combo guard.


Bardo has played for the Illinois Bears, Wolfpack of Southern Illinois, Marion Junior High, and Marion High School during his outstanding youth basketball career.


Bardo has already earned plenty of awards and recognition such as being selected for John A Logan All-Star game as well a capturing MVP  and Defensive Player of the Year awards for Marion Junior High.


Bardo is humbled by the recognition.


“I am very glad people can see how I am growing as a player and getting better each and everyday trying to get one more step closer to college,” Bardo said. “It was a great experience throughout the season traveling to see harder competition and better players.  The All-Star game was a very fun experience meeting new people and playing with players that have the mindset to win just as much as me.”


No matter the opponent, on each play Bardo is determined to give it his all.


Bardo is going all out.


The motor is always at full throttle whenever Bardo steps between the lines.


“As a point guard my job is to get other players involved, however I do score often making myself a threat on the court,” Bardo said.


Bardo has great passion and energy whenever he’s on the court. Bardo tells why he enjoys the game of football so much.


“I just love the game because it builds a lot of character about yourself and makes you really understand that anything is possible,” Bardo said.


Bardo has learned many valuable lessons from playing basketball that he applies to his everyday life.


The main one is applying perspective to all situations.


“You’re always going to mistakes and that there is always someone who is going to be there at the end of the road tougher or just as tough as you are,” Bardo said.


Bardo recalls his favorite basketball memory.


“My Wolfpack team was down two in the championship game with six seconds left and I found myself at the 3 point line and making that shot sent us to the Reebok National Tournament,” Bardo said.


Bradley Griffith has been coaching Bardo for two years at at Marion Junior High School.


Griffith explains the best parts of Bardo’s game.


“Rayzhaun works very hard on his fundamentals,” Griffith said. “A few that stand out are his shooting ability, ball-handling, and willingness to get down and guard someone on the defensive end.”


Bardo takes his role as one of the leaders on the team very seriously. Bardo makes sure he’s a daily positive influence on his peers.


“I demonstrate being a good teammate by bringing players up, coaching them on how to be a better player, and getting to know them off the court,” Bardo said. “I tell them to trust what you are doing. Just because it didn’t work the first time doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try again.”

Griffith adds that Bardo is one of those consummate teammates that every locker room needs.


“Ray worked hard over the last two years learning what it means to be a leader,” Griffith said. “He has improved immensely at lifting up his teammates whenever they struggle or make a mistake. He also understands that how he behaves off the court makes a big impact on others.”


Bardo is appreciative of having amazing male role models that are supportive.


“Being a better player and person can help a team out so much because no one wants to play with a selfish player or mean player.  Chemistry is a big part of the game that can’t be taught,” Bardo said. “Coaches tell us to relentlessly strive to be better people, leaders, and basketball players.”


Griffith recalls an example of Bardo’s capabilities.


“Ray Ray is a playmaker. He made plays for us every game. Once specific play that sticks out to me is from our last game of the season, when we won the third place game against Benton at the state tournament,” Griffith said. “With about one minute left in the game, he knocked down a huge 3-pointer from the top of the key that put us ahead and propelled us to win the game. That was a big-time clutch play. If he doesn’t hit that shot, we probably finish fourth place and end our season on a much different note.”


In addition to making clutch plays, Bardo also has a high level of basketball IQ as well.


Bardo has excellent basketball awareness that puts him in position to thrive.


“He understands the game extremely well for his age. He’s learning more and more how to make plays for his teammates. He knows he can create his own shot at any time, but he has also developed the ability to draw help defenders and find the open man,” Griffith said. “He also understands game situations—when to foul, when to hold for a good shot, when to push the ball, etc.”


Bardo is on the grind to perfect and hone his craft in any way possible.


“He is definitely a hard worker. He is constantly playing basketball. When he wasn’t practicing or playing for me, he was at the local gym getting shots up every night,” Griffith said. “He plays AAU pretty much year-round. He also won several medals at the state track meet this year, making sure that he stays in tip-top shape.”


Griffith compares Bardo to this NBA superstar.


“I would say he’s like Damian Lillard,” Griffith said. “Great shooter. Handles the ball well. Tough defender. And a leader.”


Meanwhile, Bardo patterns his style of play after this NBA MVP winner.


“Russell Westbrook because of his mindset every time he steps onto the court,” Bardo said.


Bardo is constantly striving for greatness in everything that he does.


“My goals on the court is to always win,” Bardo said. “My goals off the court are to get my school work done and practice the sports I play.”


Before the pros, Bardo dreams of becoming the next great Duke Blue Devil.


“A lot of NBA players have went there and it seems as if that’s the best place to play and make it to the NBA,” Bardo said.


Bardo lists math as his favorite subject in school.


“It clicks in my head really and I feel like I can teach others just the same,” Bardo said.


Griffith outlines the next area of improvement for Bardo.


“Two areas that Ray Ray and I have spent a lot of time on are his ability to attack/finish and also his mental toughness. He is working hard on improving his efficiency at getting all the way to the rim, absorbing contact, and finishing in traffic,” Griffith said. “He is also using his resources—reading books, listening to coaches, observing other great players—to soak up everything he can mentally about the game. The greatest players control this game with their mind and attitude. Ray knows this and is working to master his mindset on the court.”


Griffith believes the sky is the limit as long as Bardo continues to stay hungry.  


“I believe he needs to set goals and take it one step at a time. Some goals that he could accomplish in the near future include: starting for varsity as a freshman; leading his team in points, assists, and steals; and leading his team to a conference championship,” Griffith said. “I don’t want to him to look too far ahead, but down the road I think he could become his high school’s all-time leading scorer, play Division I college basketball, and  maybe even end up playing professionally some day. Nothing will come easy and it all comes down to how he both works and handles himself. He has the ability to take himself wherever he wants to.”



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