Playing in the NBA is every young basketball player's dream, but few ever realize it.
So when a Bertie County graduate finally made it big, he made it a point to give back to his rural community.
He's a 6'5, 195-pound swingman for the Golden State Warriors. No doubt, NBA rookie Kent Bazemore is living the dream.
"My very first pre-season game was against the L.A. Lakers and I grew up watching Kobe [Bryant]," Bazemore said in an exclusive Skype interview Thursday with 9 On Your Side. "He's been one of my most favorite basketball players ever. And to actually get to see him on the same court as me, it was like a dream come true."
The undrafted player from Old Dominion University made his mark collegiately as a defensive stopper. But the standout's success dates back to his time at Bertie High School.
"He was undrafted, coming out of Bertie High School, Old Dominion University, no one knew of him," Glynis Bazemore, Kent's mother, said Friday. "But he proved that hard work, dedication and keeping God first will get you wherever you want to go in life."
"Growing up in the area I grew up in, a lot of college coaches didn't come down there," he said. "It didn't even pull up in their GPS where I stayed. So, it was kind of tough to get looks. So I just persevered and kept working hard and it's kind of starting to pay off."
It's been six years since Bazemore played in his high school gym, but he hasn't forgotten where he came from. Once he made it to the NBA, he made it his priority to give back.
After signing an endorsement deal with Under Armour, Bazemore asked the company to donate $60,000 worth of practice jerseys, shoes, sweat suits and bags to the players on his former team.
"When we first got it, everybody was going crazy in the locker room jumping up and down like we won the championship," says DeShondre Day, a senior on the team. "It's overwhelming. I can't explain it."
"You see a kid living a dream that's going to make the most of the opportunities afforded to him," Calvin Moore, Bazemore's former high school coach, said. "It meant a lot, not just to the players, but to the whole community."
"I wanted to show them that anything is possible," Bazemore said. "That it doesn't matter what high school you go to, what college you go to, if you work hard enough, you can make it."
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