NBA Draft: Kent Bazemore is a Defensive Force
By Michael Scotto
Wednesday, June 20, 2012
On his birth certificate Kent Bazemore's middle name is "Lamont," but if you ask any opponent they'll tell you it should be "defense." That's because Bazemore is the reigning back-to-back CAA Defensive Player of the Year Award winner for Old Dominion University. Bazemore causes opponents nightmares with his length, wingspan, and lateral quickness on defense.
"Those back-to-back defensive awards were a blessing to me. The last person to do so was Larry Sanders, which means a lot because he's an NBA player. Playing defense is 100 percent pride and 100 percent effort. Coach would always challenge me in the locker room to give one of our opponents a rough night," said Bazemore.
I caught up with Bazemore to discuss his growth both on and off the court at ODU, the NBA Draft process, and what the future holds.
"Arguably the most important years of my life were spent at ODU," said Bazemore.
Coming from Kelford, a small town in North Carolina with a population of 300 people, Bazemore became a social butterfly with fans in the stands and friends around campus.
"Off the court, I have grown tremendously. Coming from a town that flirted with 300 people, I was a very well-known person. I arrived at ODU and one of my first classes (New Page) had the entire freshman class in it. There was a culture shock for me." said Bazemore. "The Brothers of Pi Kappa Alpha really took me under their wings and showed me how to dress for certain events, what the real meaning of being a gentleman was, and most importantly; how to appreciate what you work hard for."
Coming into ODU Bazemore was also as thin as a toothpick weighing 170 pounds. By the time Bazemore left ODU he bulked up to 200 pounds with the help of his strength coach Paul Helsel. That added strength helped Bazemore become one of the top defenders in college basketball.
"As a player I was able to sharpen my anticipation skills by becoming a defender that haunted passing lanes and turned those steals into dunks," said Bazemore. "I learned that this game is only going to reward you if you put the time into it. I came into college with a jump shot that would knock the rust off the roof. I stood in the gym and worked on my game with John Richardson, Travis Decuire and Jim Corrigan. They helped me simplify my mechanics and gain the confidence I needed to make shots."
Another instrumental figure in Bazemore's development as a defender on the court and a man off the court is coach Blaine Taylor.
"Coach Taylor has a unique way of getting the best out of you. I remember my redshirt freshman year, I had started four games and I began to get complacent in practice therefore dampening my play on the court; those next four games, I played a total of five minutes and thirty-six seconds. He taught me how to stay hungry and how not to rest when you are up fifteen. Most importantly, he strengthened me mentally. When I first got to ODU I got tired and I would slack off in a drill or simply "fade" or barely finish. He continued to stay on me and after I while I got tired of hearing how soft I was. I channeled those frustrations, and before I graduated I was winning every sprint," said Bazemore.
The feeling is mutual for coach Taylor as he expressed his praise for Bazemore's basketball development and the person he has become.
"Kent has had a very enigmatic experience which has taken him from a rural experience to big time college basketball. The additional transition from being a good high school player to somebody who has the responsibilities, who has the ball in his hands and guarding at a very high level has been one like growth rings on the tree," said Taylor.
The growth for Bazemore continues as he works on his game to prepare for the pro level.
"I have to work on my shooting consistency and I have to get a little stronger. Becoming best friends with the shooting gun and weightlifting three times a week are helping me," said Bazemore. "I have been shooting and doing extensive ball handling. I have trained with Cal Bowdler and John Lucas down in Houston."
The hard work is paying off for Bazemore. NBA teams including the Trail Blazers, Pacers, Thunder, Warriors (twice), and Bulls have all worked out Bazemore according to his agent Austin Walton. And he'll work out for the Bobcats this Friday. The Warriors, Thunder, and Pacers have all expressed interest in offering Bazemore a Summer League tryout to compete for an NBA roster spot.
The opportunity to continue his basketball career on a professional level has Bazemore excited.
"Basketball is basketball. As long as I am playing I will be happy although it is a dream of mine to play in the NBA," said Bazemore.
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