Bertie to BertiePublished 12:01pm Sunday, May 18, 2014
AULANDER – They are senior retirees, mostly former educators, who could be spending most of their time doting on grandchildren, tending their flower or vegetable gardens, knitting and crocheting, working for their church, or traveling around the country.
While they still take the time for all those, the members of Bertie County’s Club Starlite decided in 2013 to pool their resources and sponsor the Bertie High School boy’s basketball team and send them to a team camp held in Norfolk, VA at Old Dominion University.
And the connection expands from there. One of their members – not yet retired – Glynis Bazemore, provided one Bertie player with a free trip to see her son, pro basketball player Kent Bazemore, play against the Bobcats in Charlotte at Time-Warner Arena in an NBA game last winter. Kent Bazemore played both at Bertie High and for ODU.
The club was first organized in 1962, and they have sponsored various charity and fund-raising events over the years. Sending 10 kids to basketball camp was a new venture.
“We just do things for the community,” said club member Connie Richardson. “What we’re trying to do is positive things to uplift our young people. We also give scholarships to high school graduates.”
Another member, Ollie Bond, rattled off the names of some of the charities to whom the group have made donations.
“Children’s Miracle Network, Relay for Life, American Red Cross, and Salvation Army,” said Bond. “And those are only a few.”
“The camp last year was basically a team camp,” said Bertie boys basketball coach Kelvin Hayes. “We had an opportunity to go down there and play against five or six different teams from Virginia to North Carolina. It was one of the first coming togethers for our guys going into the season, an opportunity for them to get to know each other and putting them in a college setting.”
Turning to the club members, Hayes continued with his platitudes.
“We really want to thank you guys because you paid our room-and-board which put them in college dormitories where they actually had to walk to the gym, walk to the classroom, and even walk downtown, just as if they were in college,” the coach stated. “With other teams there they had the chance to meet other people and intermingle. This was a great opportunity for them.”
Hayes said the Bertie team won two of its five games; and while their record might not have been so outstanding, it allowed the team to bond.
“This was the beginning of our chemistry this year,” Hayes said. “So our success this winter was thanks to what you all started last summer. We really appreciate it.”
One player, Tydre Lee of Windsor, explained that the experience was totally new for him and stirred up something within him.
“I really appreciate the chance you all gave me,” said Lee. “I had never done anything like that.
“It was five other teams, all under one roof; it was great, I loved that,” Lee continued. “It not just stopped me from doing a whole lot of the things I used to do, but it motivated me to want to go to college.”
Another player, Erick Speight from Aulander, was transitioning from middle school to high school after the trip.
“I played against some tough competition, and I liked the whole experience,” Speight said. “It was a mixed group of black kids and white kids, all types. It was great to interact with new people from other cultures.”
The camp took place at Old Dominion June 20-22, 2013.
Chisom Watson, from Colerain, only recently transferred to Bertie in October and missed the 2013 camp, but hoped he could get a chance to go this year.
“Nothing these guys can say really sums up how grateful to you we really are,” explained Hayes. “It was so uplifting to see these guys acting like kids in a candy store. It meant that much to me personally, and this could be the first step for any of these guys becoming college students.”
Each player’s contribution to the camp was $30, with the Starlite members picking up the rest of the tab.
The ODU coaches also told the Bertie players about another former Falcon, Bazemore, and the effect he had on his Monarch teammates during Bazemore’s playing days.
Now that Bazemore – currently living in California and playing for the Los Angeles Lakers, but last fall a member of the Golden State Warriors of Oakland – has left the college environment, his mother, Glynis, wanted to do something for his former high school team. Thus, she sponsored one player, Calen Mitchell, to see Kent and his team in a pro game when the team came east. Mitchell and his mother attended a game last December.
“Don’t take these things for granted because everyone doesn’t get this opportunity,” Mrs. Bazemore said. “My push was to motivate my sons and I know the struggles it took to get my children to where they are, but the same thing can happen to you. Stay in those books and keep up those grades.
“When you put that Blue-and-White on, be proud of it, because who you are represents Bertie,” she exhorted.
“His coaches called Kent an ‘ambassador’ for the school,” Hayes added. “It’s like a little bit of Bertie really meant something to them.”
Another former BHS basketball player remains with ODU. John Richardson, Jr. is an assistant to head Coach Jeff Jones with the Old Dominion basketball program. Richardson was visiting in the local area during the club meeting and spoke for the university.
“Because of your generosity these young men got a chance to see what life beyond their surroundings is like,” Coach Richardson said. “I hope we can make this happen again, bigger and better than ever.”