Setting the bar high
Published 8:11 am Tuesday, August 19, 2014
WINDSOR – First you dream it, and then you make it a reality.
That was Kent Bazemore’s vision: first as a high school basketball player at Bertie High School; then at the next level in college; and finally as a professional. Last week the Kelford native took it even higher with his first-ever basketball camp right near the site where it all began.
The Kent Bazemore Youth Skills Basketball Camp took place at the new high school in Windsor for three days followed by another camp in Tidewater Virginia, and the dreamer had his chance to live the dream.
“You always have aspirations growing up of being an NBA player at a young age,” Bazemore said seated in the bleachers and keeping a watchful eye on his young charges. “But as you experience life at that stature and with the following that I think I have then giving back is just something that you’re almost obligated to do.”
Tuesday morning, Bazemore will receive the ultimate honor at the first-ever convocation at the new BertieHigh School. During the ceremony, a video of his career will be shown and after which he will become the first player to have his retired jersey raised above the floor of the new gymnasium.
Bazemore said he might have done a camp both after he finished his college career at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, where he earned two degrees in 2012; or, in 2013 after his rookie season in the National Basketball Association (NBA) with the Golden State Warriors. He was further handicapped by living and working on the west coast.
“I really wanted to do it as soon as I got into the NBA, but I had to make sure I was fine with it first,” he recalled. “I had a non-guaranteed contract with the Warriors and I had to play in the Summer League all summer in Las Vegas, plus it’s a whole day getting back here (from California); but I said once I got a chance I was going to come back and have something.”
Once Bazemore cleared the way for his summer camp to take place he hired on not only childhood friends plus his younger brother, Wykevin, who plays at Winston-Salem State, but also other professionals for the kids to have as role models.
Bazemore’s campers seemed hungry to learn from the pros, something the camp counselors appreciated.
“That really makes me happy because that’s something I did,” he enthused. “If you work at it you begin to figure things out and putting in the extra work on your own time is when you reap the benefits.”
Bazemore’s rookie season didn’t bring a lot of – P.T. (playing time) – averaging just over four minutes a night and two points a game for Golden State. He earned more of a national following for his enthusiasm on the sidelines, even rising to iconic status with ‘Bazemore-ing’; homage to his antics.
“People got to know me, fans all across the world, seeing me share my story,” he said. “I was more than just a name on the back of my jersey so it was a win-win for everybody.”
Traded to the Los Angeles Lakers in February of 2014 after a season and a half in the Bay area, Bazemore thrived, averaging 13.1 points in 23 games before a torn tendon in his right foot ended his season in April.
The Lakers left Bazemore an unrestricted free agent and in mid-July the 6-foot-5 guard agreed to a two-year, $4 million contract with the Atlanta Hawks.
“You still have to show people you’re able to hang with the big boys night in and night out,” he says. “The trade helped and shows you have to continue to work because you never know when your opportunity is going to come. I knew once I had my chance I would make the most of it.”
Bazemore had interest from Boston, Utah, and even Charlotte – which would have landed him back in the Tar Heel state and closer to home.
“Atlanta’s just as good, a short flight or an eight-hour drive from here,” he smiled. “I think my presence goes a long ways and I’m willing to come back here and help…you never know what this area can turn into.
“There’s no pressure because at the end of the day it’s just basketball,” he continued. “I got an opportunity to chase this dream and I made the most of it.”
Bazemore roots for another Kelford product: women’s hoop star Jessica Breland, who was an All-Star this past WNBA season. He also pays respect to the coaches who encouraged him: Calvin Moore, Alice Lyons, and Tony Hoggard.
“They used to run us into the ground, but we all knew it would pay off,” he muses.
“I would’ve never thought, growing up here,” he conceded, as emotion rises in his voice. “Just goes to show the love I’ve got; and you never know.
Bazemore’s campers also challenged him. Not merely with their questions but with also with some provocation.
“They ask me if I can dribble between my legs twice and then dunk,” he says with a laugh. “I don’t know where they’ve seen me do that but that’s just me; goofy, the same old Kent.”
Bazemore says he wants his legacy to just be that he worked hard to figure life and the world out, and pass along what he learned.
“I was raised here,” he declares proudly. “Growing up here’s taught me a lot. It gave me the one thing you need in life: a work ethic. Once you figure out the rest and channel your work ethic in the right direction then this is what it turns into.”