Bazemore hopes to stick with Lakers, learn from Bryant

VIDEO: Kent Bazemore gets loose for a nice dunk against the Kings

HANG TIME SOUTHWEST — Tiny Kelford, N.C., is a place where kids still play basketball outdoors on patches of dirt. Fortunately for Kent Bazemore, outside the three-bedroom, two-bath, single-wide trailer he grew up in with his mom, dad and younger brother, a concrete slab sat vacant. It was big enough so that if you put up a basketball goal at each end it would suffice quite nicely as a full-length basketball court, and a magnet for kids throughout rural Bertie County.

Thank goodness for that slab because Glynis Bazemore was dead set against her two young boys, Kent and WyKevin, going off to play basketball one block over at the park where they’d be out of her sight.

So she brought the park home.

“I’d have a yard full of guys on a Saturday on up until a Sunday afternoon because, understand you had to go to church,” Glynis said. “After that they would play basketball until the sun went down.”

The single pole with a light bright enough to play through dusk turned the Bazemore home into something of a rustic Rucker Park from the time Kent was an absurdly tall and skinny 10-year-old until he graduated from Bertie High School, a gangly, 6-foot-5 playmaker overlooked by every major Division I program.

“We had one [basketball] goal that went in and then the kids from our neighborhood, we put up some money, gave it to my mom, she drove like 30 minutes away, got us another basket and so we got another one at the other end and we would go at it,” Bazemore told during a recent telephone interview.

A Feb. 19 trade has elevated him from a towel-waving bench-warmer with the Golden State Warriors to a productive rotation player with his favorite team as a child, the Los Angeles Lakers.

“It got really popular. Other kids would drive from other parts of the county and kids would take like 25-minute drives, they were bringing their own groups of 4-on-4,” Bazemore said. “We would have tournaments all day. A lot of nights you go home with big scars on your legs, falling on your hip on the cement and you had to play through it, you just kept playing. It’s amazing how I’m able to still walk now going through the things I’ve been through playing in good, old Kelford, North Carolina.”

Childhood dream realized in L.A.

In star-studded L.A., Bazemore, a free-agent-to-be, is getting a golden chance to audition for the Lakers as well as every other NBA club. An exuberant, high-motor, blue-collar gym rat, Bazemore went undrafted in 2012, one year after earning National Defensive Player of the Year honors as a junior at Old Dominion, where he graduated with two degrees ( criminal justice and human services). He wants to stick with the Lakers long term and relishes the possibility to play alongside his favorite childhood player-turned-teammate, Kobe Bryant, regardless of the growing tales of the superstar’s grating, overly demanding ways.

“Shoot, that would be a dream come true, and with the track record he has, the body of work he has, I would be all ears,” Bazemore said. “For a guy who’s been through everything he’s been through, playing half of his life in this league, winning multiple championships, why not listen? If I got to go against him every day, I know I’m not cheating myself, so I would look forward to it. In all honesty, I don’t think he’s that tough to play with. If he demands a lot, he just wants to be great. You can’t really knock that.”

Bazemore’s camp believes if he continues to contribute as he has in his first 10 games, the struggling Lakers, seeking to rebuild their roster and needing inexpensive, athletic players around Bryant next season, will make the $1.1 million qualifying offer this summer. That would make Bazemore, 24, a restricted free agent and allow L.A. to match any team’s offer. With no qualifying offer, Bazemore becomes an unrestricted free agent.

“The Lakers, I think,” said Calvin Moore, Bazemore’s former coach at Bertie High School, “found a diamond just like Old Dominion did.”

In logging nearly 30 minutes a game in coach Mike D’Antoni‘s free-wheeling offense, the southpaw Bazemore is averaging 14.6 ppg on 45.9 percent shooting and 40.4 percent from 3-point range. He’s started eight games and recorded career highs of 15, 17 and 23 points in each of his first three games, the latter coming against Indiana when he went toe-to-toe with Paul George, even frustrating the All-Star into 2-for-11 shooting in the first half of a game the Pacers eventually won. Nonetheless, Bazemore’s presence, and his impressive wing span, were duly noted.

Moore sends many texts to his best and always hardest-working player from what were gritty BHS basketball teams filled mostly with football players. During the Pacers game, he couldn’t stop messaging Bazemore. At halftime, he cautioned Bazemore to be alert for George’s adjustments even though he knew Bazemore wouldn’t see the texts until after the game.

“That’s one of the things from high school: You’re going to play defense, some things are non-negotiable,” Moore said. “He just took it and ran with it and I think he can do the same thing for any team he plays with in the league.”

Bazemore honed craft in Golden State

VIDEO: Kent Bazemore’s passionate support on the bench was a hallmark of his Golden State days

The Golden State Warriors v Dallas Mavericks

Kent Bazemore deeply valued his 2012 Summer League experience.

In 44 games with Golden State this season, Bazemore averaged 6.1 mpg and 2.1 ppg. The Warriors swapped Bazemore’s potential for the need-it-now veteran reliability of point guard Steve Blake. Bazemore said he holds no grudges and praised Golden State’s ownership and management for inviting him onto their Summer League team in 2012 and then signing him to a two-year contract. He thanked the Warriors’ coaching staff, saying “they were all out for my best interests” and blamed himself for the need for a trade by not being ready to assume the backup point guard role.

“Steve Blake is a great fit for them because I’m not your prototypical point guard and we experimented with that,” Bazemore said. “That’s my fault if you ask me. I wasn’t ready to take on that role. They gave me every opportunity to show that.”

Over the last season and a half, Bazemore put in lengthy hours with Warriors assistant coach Joe Boylan. The two formed a partnership and a friendship, and Bazemore said he will reunite with Boylan this summer to train. He wants to work on playing lower with the ball so smaller guards can’t crowd his 6-foot-5 frame. (Boylan couldn’t comment on this story because Warriors coach Mark Jackson does not allow his assistants to speak to the media in-season.)

“The thing with this league is you create relationships far beyond basketball,” Bazemore said. “For me, playing right now, he’s [Boylan] probably the happiest guy on earth. I would turn 45 minute-workouts into 2 ½-hour workouts just trying to make six shots from one spot when I first got to Golden State and he’d be the one chasing down all those rebounds.

“As time went on I got a lot better, the workouts got shorter and there were days where I would breeze through them. But we would always work hard; show up early, leave late.”

Lessons from home still ring true

The foundation of which started with those scrapes and bruises on the cement court, but mostly from the ground rules set by and the constant encouragement from his mom. She worked three jobs for years up until only last month, finally deciding to give up the school-bus route as well as being a short-order cook at her brother-in-law’s restaurant, Bazemore’s Country Kitchen, which Kent swears serves the best food in Bertie county, population 20,000. She still has her job of the last 20 years, though: teacher’s assistant at the local elementary school.

She instilled in Kent and WyKevin, a junior forward and third-leading scorer for Winston-Salem State University, humbleness and accountability, demanding nothing lower than a B in every class or no basketball.

She still texts both boys Bible scriptures and positive notes before every game they play. She still lives in the same house in Kelford where she watches every one of Kent’s games on NBA League Pass, despite many 10:30 p.m. ET tipoffs. Even through all those Warriors games where her son didn’t play, she never went to bed before 1:45 a.m., after Kent would reply to her postgame texts.

“I would text him I love him, you done good,” Glynis said. “I don’t care if he got 24 seconds.”

When the Warriors played at Charlotte, about a four-hour drive from Bertie County, the Bazemores’ church pastor organized a field trip for the Feb. 4 game. They took two buses that included some 40 kids from all over the county. Before they left, Bazemore sent money to his mom so they could all eat along on the way at Golden Corral. At the game, Bazemore signed autographs and took pictures with every person that came on those buses. He got in the game for 1 minute, 58 seconds.

“That’s where he gets his humbleness from because he knows his struggles, he knows what’s got him there and he knows what it takes to stay where he’s at,” Glynis said. “And just looking at him out there now, being with the Lakers, just being able to get that opportunity means a lot. That’s all he wanted was the opportunity, and I know he has put the work in.”

Bazemore’s sudden outburst, combined with his size and upside, will assuredly earn him a contract next season. Whether it’s with L.A. or elsewhere is irrelevant. For Bazemore, it’s the natural extension of what he’s always done: working to beat the odds.

“Coming out of high school I had this big chip on my shoulder,” Bazemore said. “I would drool at the chance to get to play these teams that overlooked me and try to destroy them. But one thing they don’t put on draft boards, one thing they don’t say about kids coming out [of high school] is how hard they work and how successful they want to be.

“That’s one thing you can’t really measure in a kid.”

VIDEO: Kent Bazemore talks after he signed his first contract with the Warriors


  1. Alton T. Brown says:

    Great article! So happy for Kent making it from the small town of Kelford, NC. I’m so happy that he finally got a chance to really showcase his abilities. He has always strong work ethic and now it is showing. We are proud of you back home Kent, keep up the GREAT work and yes sir……. You most definitely belong in THE NBA!!!!
    We are very proud of you back home and the Your fan base back here is unbelievable. To walk around a basketball court and hear little kids say…”I’m Kent Bazemore”! Great job Bazemore!!!!

  2. Big Al of Bondi says:

    This kid probably got famous for mocking Blake Griffin twice, when the latter took a couple of ill-advised threes that were both way off. I am happy of how he transitioned from a hardly-used bench warmer to an occasional starter in one of the league’s most successful teams. I saw potential in Kent Bazemore ever since, and finally, this is his chance to shine. LA may be at its lowest right now, but there is a huge possibility of turning that around next year. Hopefully, he can help realize this. Keep on improving, but don’t let things get to your head.

  3. I watch this kid developed his game from a sophomore until his senior at Bertie High School from recording games and playing pickup games with him sometimes. His family really kept his dream focus. He got my attention when came on the court and change game play with block shots on defense. I once explained to his team how win games after losing a tough game to your rivalry school. Just learn to have fun playing the game while developing your play skills. Next level takes a lot work.

  4. okc2014 says:

    Great article, very promising young rising star. Wish him the best. And if he wants to learn from Kobe, so be it, it’s his choice.

  5. Ash Weaver says:

    It really is a joy to see someone from the same area, dreams come ture! Knowing that it is possible to do what you set your mind to, is all the motivation a little kid from a little ol country town needs.!!! You go KENT continue to shine and dream.. Will always cheer you on!!!!!!

  6. splash says:

    bazemore’s energy on the bench is unmatchable by any other player in the league. sad to see him go but glad to see him doing well in LA

  7. steve la porta says:

    thanks for writing such a wonderful, inspirational story. the baze has been my favorite player since i saw him play on the warriors summer league team. i was feeling really sad when he got traded. in retrospect, the trade was terrific for both teams — which is what negotiations should be, but, seldom are, an opportunity for both parties to succeed. i love it that bazemore — not just the towel waving, multiple posing, car-full-of popcorn enthusiastic kid, but, the slashing to the rim, come from behind shot blocking, rainbow 3 point making lefty — is getting a second chance at greatness. keep smiling kid; mom bazemore keep texting.

  8. lbj says:

    Hoping to stick with the lakers, learning from Bryant will not win you a ring you need to come play with the King “LeBron” in miami, we can trade future hall of fame point guard Norris Cole and a second round pick

  9. AndyL says:

    Warriors are so much better without Bazemore and Bazemore is so much better at the Lakers. It was a win win for both teams.

  10. KittyKat76 says:

    this was a great article to read.. Even though I am a CLIPPER FAN! I love that the Lakers Beat OKC. Bazemore coming to the Lakers was a great move.
    hope he stays this humble and remember his upbringing.. I LOVE THAT his MOM, didnt get a big head about the $$$$$$$ and she is staying true to herself and is proud of both her sons.

  11. Arash-Iran says:

    I liked him a lot, we really didn’t need igudala, barnes, klay and kent would have been good for us…we’ll miss you in GSW, good luck!

  12. dustydreamnz says:

    One of the best articles ever. What a great kid on and off the court.

  13. vysuys says:

    Kent Bazemore reminds me of a young Latrell Spreewell (but with 1000% better attitude). He’s great on D, has long long arms, and is fast as hell. Look forward to seeing him shine in the future.

  14. Eazyduzit says:

    a young lamar odom maybe ?