Jaylin Fleming leans back in the bleachers and suddenly breaks into unscripted laughter with several of his Arcadia Titan teammates.
They see the popular junior guard as a selfless teammate, a friend and “just one of the guys” on one of the best 5A basketball teams in Arizona.
Rewind six years and Fleming was in another place and a much different space, widely regarded as the best 10-year-old player in the nation. His effortless coordination and playmaking ability for a child his age growing up on the south side of Chicago led to takeout features, viral YouTube videos and appearances on national television shows.
Through it all, with the strong guidance and support of his family, he never lost focus of who he is and what he represents.
“I promise, I never Google myself,” Fleming said with smile to Sports360AZ.com. “I’ve, of course, seen it because my friends show me but it’s humbling. I’m blessed. [My talents] could have been given to anyone.”
Fleming’s fast rise into the national spotlight, which included Chicago legend Derrick Rose saying Jaylin was a far better player than he was at age 10, was never overshadowed by his families’ core values.
“We always separated sports from academics and home time,” Jaylin’s father John said to Sports360AZ.com. “Those things are very important to our family. I always made sure he had a great balance with that.”
Part of the balance included playing other sports. His first love was football until he started training with John’s godson Maurice Acker who went on to play collegiately at Marquette University. Jaylin’s skill level increased playing with and against players three and four years older, many of which are now playing at prominent Division I programs.
Along the way Jaylin has encountered his share of obstacles on and off the floor. An injury forced him to miss nearly his entire freshman season playing varsity at Mount Carmel High School. Far more troubling was losing three childhood friends who were murdered.
At that point the Fleming’s decided it was in their best interest to relocate to Arizona where the 6-foot-3, 185-pound rising prospect planned to attend Hillcrest Prep Academy here in the Valley. The family believed Jaylin wouldn’t be pushed academically and decided Arcadia would be the best fit.
The Fleming’s and the school couldn’t be happier.
“Life at Arcadia is great,” Fleming said. “My school work has been great. Everything has been good.”
The same can be said for Fleming and the 16-3 Titans. His 12-point, four assist performance helped AHS to a key 59-48 East Valley Region win at Paradise Valley earlier this week. Just four nights earlier he hit the game-winning shot against perennial Scottsdale power Chaparral. A consistent double-digit scorer, Fleming gets greater excitement setting up his teammates for easy opportunities through the ball-handling skills and basketball instincts he honed many years ago.
“We knew that he could get to the [rim] against anybody,” Arcadia head coach Stephen Danford explained to Sports360AZ.com. “Great player. Great kid. Great teammate. He can play in college for sure.”
As they say, practice makes perfect.
For Jaylin Fleming it certainly applies everywhere, from Chicago to Phoenix.