Kent Bazemore has made serious waves during his rookie campaign. As an undrafted rookie out of Old Dominion, Bazemore has become a vital member of this vastly improved Warriors team. His numbers won’t jump out at you, but that doesn’t matter. Bazemore could care less about his stats, he’s a team player in every sense of the phrase. If the team is winning, he’s winning, and it’s this type of mentality that has propelled him through the infant stages of his career. In my one-on-one interview with him Saturday morning, he was every bit revealing, candid and funny as you would expect out of the animated rookie. This is his story.
You’re from Kelford, NC, population of less than 300 people, can you explain living in that environment growing up in such a small town?
The cliche, “it takes a good kid to be raised by a village” is pretty much what I grew up on. A lot of people in the area are family, you always had to keep your nose clean because you can get a whoopin’ by anybody or by anybody parent or anything. I definitely think it’s part my home upbringings and made me the person I am today.
Now is true there are no stop lights in Kelford, just stop signs?
That is 100% true, no stop lights. If you blink driving thru, the speed limit through here is like 25 mph, so you get to see a little bit but by the time you blink you’re already out in another town.
You had a basketball court at your house, you had people come over, about 20 kids and just play ball, is that right?
Yeah, different kids from different neighborhoods would come down Saturdays and Sundays mostly, we’d have tournaments, I had a 3/4 court on a slab of cement and me and the kids around the neighborhood would put money up. There was definitely a camaraderie. I always grew up on the team mentality, playing with guys for a greater cause: to win.
Now tell me about “The Bazemore Country Kitchen.”
(Laughs) That’s my uncle’s store, he be running it for as far back as I can remember. Great food man. I used to go down there after practice everyday. My mom worked there all the way up until 10-11 at night. I would just sit up there with her, talk with different people that come in and eat all day and those type of things. It’s great food, so if you’re ever down there just stop by and get yourself a nice sandwich.
You went to Bertie High School in Windsor, NC, about an hour from your house, is that right?
Well no, actually about 35 minutes from my house but the bus ride is about an hour. I had to get up at 6:15 to catch the bus around 7-ish and then we’ll get to school rightat right at 8 for breakfast.
Now your mom played for Bertie High School as well.
Yeah she played, they offered her a scholarship but due to certain circumstances she wasn’t able to chase that dream of being a basketball player. But that’s one of the things she always said: I never want my kids have to face that burden of not being able to chase that dream. So she did whatever she could to get us to camps, to take us up and down the road. My first truck in college, no my second truck in college was passed down from her, when I got it it had 240K miles on it, when she first purchased it was like 16K miles on it. It was all behind basketball.
So safe to say she played a vital role in your life, even now, but especially during your high school and younger years?
Yeah definitely, she was always in my corner you know even if i had a bad game. She did what she could. She always said the right things. My dad was pretty much my dad. He was always like, you had a good game, let’s say in high school you got 30 points, but you missed four free throws and six layups…
Kind of like a tough love type of thing?
…yeah but it was a great way of keeping me level headed and it’s a great thing to have equilibrium when it comes to having positive and negative reinforcement.
You red-shirted your freshman year at Old Dominion, what kind of refinements to your game did you make that freshman year and kind of things did you learn?
Just learning the game of basketball. I was a raw kid. Raw athleticism, could jump, I ran track. I was a pretty good athlete. I hadn’t really been playing with guys up to that level of competition, I had to put on a few pounds, I came into college 168 pounds. I was just a long lanky kid, I couldn’t really handle it, my jump shot, I’m still working on my jump shot to this day but couldn’t shoot it. Just the small things in basketball. Every time I touch on the subject of me red-shirting I have to thank Coach Blaine Taylor for me giving me an opportunity to chase my dream.
Would you say with the NBA rule — having to play one year in college — that playing those five years at ODU was absolutely pivotal for your career?
Oh yeah yeah, I couldn’t leave early if I wanted to. I just wanted to stay and work on my game. I’d rather work to get good and then where I’m at, I don’t want to have these faults where “he was overrated.” I feel I can get better everyday. I think the worst day of my life will be when I can’t get any better. I think that’ll be the day I’ll be like “what in the world?” I feel like I’m the type of player, I have the type of game where I can add stuff to my game, whether it be mental or physical.
Fast forward to draft night, that must’ve been a pretty interesting night for you to say the least. Take me through your feelings just going through that whole night?
It was definitely empowering. You see a lot of guys go, you watch these guys all season and see their names called and you’re like “Man…how?” One thing I’ve come to realize, the draft is pretty much for your family. Seeing them have your name called, being in the green room, watching your highlights on national TV, your Twitter blowing up, what have you. Then once you get here, even the first round, second round and un-drafted players, the playing field is even because we’re all fighting for the same situation. I mean, granted they all got guaranteed contracts but it’s a lot of moves being made everyday in the NBA. You see some guys, first round draft picks still playing in the D-League. I was fortunate enough to play four games down there and did pretty well. If they send me back, I’m going to continue to do the same thing. It’s just a level playing field and it’s all about who want it more.
Was there ever a thought of “Hey, maybe the NBA, not right now at least, isn’t going to be there for me?” Or were you always pretty confident you were going to find a spot?
I heard that. I worked out with a bunch of teams and one of the things they said was “Maybe he’s a year away. He has poor athleticism, good defender, offensive game is kinda shaky. He’s a year away.” Just gotta give thanks for Golden State. Same situation in college, my career could’ve went either way here. My game could’ve went either way, I could’ve declined, but right now I’m on the right pace with helping this team out. Like I said it’s all about who wants it more. I’m here everyday, before games getting in work, after practice getting in work, Sundays, I probably haven’t had a day off since I step foot in this town, and it’s starting to show. My game is starting to get back where it used to be before my injury, I broke my foot last summer. It’s just a blessing to be able to be here.
So the Warriors sign you, bring you into training camp, what kind of expectations did you have coming in here?
I definitely wanted to make the team, once I got my foot in the door, once I got used to that lifestyle, having that NBA logo on your chest, I kinda got hungry, greedy, and I wanted to stay here. I tried to do everything possible, brining that energy, being that locker room guy, empowering my teammates, that goes into my antics on the sidelines. That’s what I do. I’m going to be a team player regardless, a great locker room guy. It’s the small things that keep you around this league for a long time. Granted I’m not playing, but I still have an impact on my teammates and the game as well.
So the season starts and you’re going up and down from here to Santa Cruz. Tell me about that experience, it’s a weird situation.
Well you know, my love for this game, you can send me across seas and play and come back, I’m gonna go, because I’m playing basketball. And to be able to play down in Santa Cruz, in front of that crowd, it’s much like here, that place doesn’t hold 19K people obviously, but it’s just like here. To be able to play basketball, the game you love, the game you woke up for at 6AM in college to do workouts for, to reach your dream, it says a lot. For them to send me down and get those minutes and come right back and root on my teammates, it was probably one of my greatest experience of my life so far.
Speaking of your teammates, a lot of rookies don’t come into such good situations like they are with the Warriors. A lot of talented players on this team, it looks like they’re going to be a playoff team, how much being signed to a team with so much talent helped you in your development?
Oh man, it pushes you man. At the end of the day we’re all competitors. We’re on the same team but guys are competing for minutes. That’s my goal, to crack that rotation. I come in here everyday, locked in, focused like “OK, I need to make shots,” or whatever I need to work on. Whenever I step on the floor I make sure I’m getting better. It’s easy to come here for three hours and not get enough work in. Come in with Joe Boylan (video scout), get a couple rebounders and we’re in here 45 minutes. Get some conditioning in, get a lift in and I’m out of here. It definitely pushes you. I could’ve easily been in a different situation where I didn’t have to work as hard or didn’t have the drive to work as hard.
Is there a veteran on this team, or a specific teammate that you’re especially closest to?
All of us are pretty close, but Richard Jefferson has probably been my guy. He’s been in the league 12 years, played playoff basketball, NBA Finals, he was one of my favorite players growing up. We wore the same numbers when he was in New Jersey (#24), Rick Barry got it up in the rafters so I was kinda crushed when I found that out (laughs). Same type of game, he was a lot bigger than I am, but as far as running the floor, dunking, just being that energy guy, flying through the air, that’s who I always patent my game around. And then to actually know him on a personal basis has been a dream come true, he’s definitely been coaching me along this process, helping me out with the frustrations of traveling, my shot not falling one day, those type of things. He’s definitely been in my corner.
Little bit past halfway through your rookie year now, you got some extended minutes in a couple games recently, how did that feel getting extended minutes, partly because of Harrison’s injury, but you played well, how did it feel being out there?
I’ve been working, I’ve been working really hard and to get out there and play extended period of minutes not knowing I was going to play that long, not knowing if my body was going to be able to hold up. It’s a tough game, 30 minutes is not a little bit of time, I was out there, held my own, played pretty well. It was one of those games where you say “keep doing what your doing.”
That had to be fun…
Oh yeah, to get out there and guard Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters. My first possession in, Kyrie dribbling in full-speed, my heart is like “what is he going to do next?” It’s just a thrill, you know watching the game on TV last year, sitting in your college dorm to actually being out there guarding him. Crazy.
Plus it had to feel good, Kyrie didn’t have a good game, it had to feel good pretty much shutting him down. You were on him a lot during that game…
I’m wouldn’t to say that. I’m not going to dig that hole (laughs). He’s probably one of the best players in this league. They said he was a little bit under the weather. I’m not going to degrade myself at all, but that guy can light it up.
You’ve been featured on SportsCenter, TNT, NBA blogs for your enthusiasm during the games. Do you pay any attention to that?
Like I said, I’m all about my teammates. When somebody do something that should be acknowledged, I make it known it was a good play. My Twitter goes crazy all the time, my Instagram, they got this hashtag #Bazemoring going on now (laughs), t-shirts, they got a celebration video that they tagged me with on Twitter. It’s all about the experience. You have to embrace it, a lot of guys are cool with players on other teams and they were like “Man, I can’t stand Bazemore, he’s always celebrating and cheering.” But that’s the stuff you got to embrace, I just love this game and do whatever I can to help my teammates.
You go from Kelford, NC to ODU and now you’re living in the Bay Area. How have you adjusted?
It’s great, I think my biggest transition was going from Kelford to Norfolk. We had about 26,000 people at my school (ODU) from a graduating class of 224 people (Bertie HS). That was a culture shock in itself having a classroom of 110 people from having like 20 people in your classroom. That was the biggest thing. Now I’m older, more mature. I’ve learned how to get in where I fit in and stay out of trouble. I love it out here. I haven’t had the chance to do as much as I want, basketball is a long season, you need your rest, but I love it out here.
You have a favorite food spot around here?
Nah man I’m a chef, I cook. I go to the grocery store, I stay out in Emeryville, I go to Target or Whole Foods and get me a nice meal cooked for me and my little puppy.
If you had one meal to cook, if someone said “Kent, cook me one meal to impress me.” What would it be?
I make a mean spaghetti man (laughs), I mean it’s cook obviously, my backup would probably be pork chops and gravy with collared greens, whatever I’m feeling. I like to mix up the sides.
Now music, what do you have in your iPod nowadays?
A$AP Rocky, my homeboy JB the Pilot from Virginia, his career is growing just like mine, I started listening to my freshman year, kind of an underground guy but his time is coming. I got a little bit of J. Cole, Ryan Leslie and Jay-Z of course, can’t forget that guy. There’s just so many. I’m all over the place. I got Adele, I got jazz, Miles Davis and those type of guys. Whatever I’m feeling I got a genre for it.
It seems like a common favorite around the team is Kendrick Lamar…
Yeah, his album was pretty good. He’s got a different flavor. I was warming up to him, but there’s so much music coming out now. You’re jumping here, jumping here, jumping here, jumping here. I tend to listen to a lot of mellow stuff before the games. I don’t really get into the hardcore rap, you burn a lot of energy listening to that stuff.
Favorite movie of all time?
It’s still Oliver & Company, I grew up watching that movie, I had it on VHS, I watched it so much I think it stopped working. I use to watch it like 10 times a week. It was a great movie. Right now though, I’m a huge Jason Statham fan, I love all his flicks. Crank 2, Transporter 3…
You see his last movie yet?
I haven’t seen Parker yet, I’ll probably check it out tomorrow.
Favorite TV show?
Family Guy. Hands down. That show is crazy. Love it.
Give me three websites, not counting Twitter, that you go to each and everyday.
I go to KentBazemore20.com (laughs), I like cars so I go and check out different body kits, as of lately I’ve been going to a French Bulldog website just to learn a lot more about my dog. I’m just a simple guy, I don’t really be on the TMZ’s or the WorldStar’s…
I was going to say, WorldStar is a popular one.
Yeah, I don’t really get into that stuff. It’s poison for your brain.