Kent Bazemore is someone young basketball players could stand to learn from. The Old Dominion guard’s career is almost over, as his team has been eliminated from the CAA Tournament but postseason play should be in his team’s future. As that comes about, looking at his evolution as a player is a nice exercise, as it’s been enjoyable to watch him go from a player who needed to redshirt as a freshman to one of the conference’s best players.
Bazemore knew he needed to redshirt when he first got to Norfolk. He needed to get stronger and develop his offensive game, and it was a new world to him as he came from Kelford, N.C., a small town well to the northeast of Raleigh. As a freshman, he showed promise, and got more minutes as a sophomore. By then, he had established some versatility, as the Monarchs felt they could play him at any of the perimeter positions with some minutes at the point in a pinch. Still, on what had been veteran teams, he wasn’t putting up eye-popping numbers or being thought of as an all-CAA player, although his defense got noticed as he was selected to the conference’s All-Defensive team.
Last year, more was needed from him, although he was a key on a senior-laden team. He had his best shooting year from long range and was the conference’s Defensive Player of the Year, a feat he would repeat this season. He was also a second team All-CAA selection and an integral part of a second straight conference championship team.
All of that earned Bazemore enough respect that he was selected as the conference’s preseason Player of the Year, even though he broke his left foot during the summer and it was thought that he would miss at least the first month of the season. True to his work ethic, he was in the gym three times a day with some conditioning at night as well as treatment. With that, he returned much sooner than expected and did not miss a game, although he wasn’t the same player for a while.
By the end of the season, Bazemore had really rounded into form. He scored a career-high 37 points at Drexel in the regular season finale, and in Saturday’s win over Delaware looked like what head coach Blaine Taylor must have envisioned he would be by his senior year. Although he always played with confidence, it was very clear in this game as he took and made shots he would not have attempted a couple of years earlier. He had evolved into a confident, complete player who knew it was time for him to lead his team.
“His development has been gradual, but if you look at it in a five-year capsule, it’s been a metamorphosis that’s been really eye-opening,” said Taylor. “He’s turned into a really good player, even when he doesn’t play his top-notch game, people are very respectful of the threat that he represents.”
That respect was shown at the end of Sunday’s game as Bazemore fouled out late in the second half. Drexel head coach Bruiser Flint got Bazemore’s attention as he headed to the bench and gave him a thumbs-up. When the game was over, he had some kind words for Bazemore as they went through the line.
The respect has been well-earned, and it’s taken a lot to get there. It’s even hit him just how far he’s come, both physically – he came in at 6’4″, 170 pounds and is now 6’5″, 200 pounds.
“My weight coach has before and after pictures, we take one every season,” Bazemore reflected. “It just shows the dedication, the hard work, the crying, the bleeding, the sweating I do every day trying to get where I want to be. My dream is to play at the next level, so I just work hard and try to be the best player on the floor every night.”
What you sense in talking to the young man, who will have two degrees in a couple of months, is that he was patient with his progress and had an idea of what it took. You sense a young man that wanted to be coached and bought into what his coaches taught him in order to get better. He’s always been a nice, engaging young man and one with a good feel for the game as well as where his game is at. Bazemore never got impatient; he just kept working, and while he didn’t become an overnight success story, he is one nonetheless, and that’s what matters.
That’s also why young players could take a lesson from him as his college career draws to a close.