Kent Bazemore said it will probably hit him Saturday afternoon during warmups. Too much ahead, and definitely too much behind, to ponder the end of his career at
"I haven't really been reminiscing," Bazemore said earlier this week. "I know it's been a long ride. I've seen pictures of myself when I first got here, in my jersey. A hundred-and-seventy pounds. I look at myself now, 30 pounds later, an inch taller. A lot to think about."
Depending on postseason, Bazemore and fellow seniors
, Trian Iliadis and Marquel De Lancey will play their final home game 4 p.m. Saturday at the Constant Center as ODU (19-11, 13-4
) hosts league leader Drexel.
Bazemore's college career, even his senior year, has had separate and distinct chapters. He arrived as a bashful, gangly kid from rural Bertie County, N.C., all loose limbs and undirected energy.
He will leave ODU with two bachelor's degrees, a young man who engages and speaks to groups, who envisions a path toward philanthropy and giving back. He will have the opportunity to dribble for money, if not domestically, certainly abroad.
In between, Bazemore transitioned from freshman redshirt to spot performer to complementary piece to 6-foot-5, 200-pound pack leader.
"I think Kent has been a fascinating story for people from all vantage points," ODU coach
Start with the here and now. Bazemore has helped fuel the push that has ODU among the top four teams in the CAA. The Monarchs have won 12 of their past 15 games, their only losses to league powers
Bazemore leads ODU in scoring (14.5 ppg), assists (94) and steals (65), and he's second in rebounding (5.6 rpg). In his past three games, he's averaged 23 points and nearly eight rebounds per game, including a 28-point, seven-rebound effort in a BracketBusters win at Missouri State.
"He might score eight points, but be the most dominant player on the floor,"
said, "because he's so good defensively, he's so good on the boards, he does so many things for them. And he's a clutch player. He's made a lot of clutch plays and clutch shots over time for them."
Bazemore hit the jump shot at James Madison that sent the game to overtime in early January, a win that arguably kick-started ODU's season. He hit two free throws at the end of regulation to tie at Delaware, then scored nine of the Monarchs' 11 points in overtime in a 68-66 win.
He hit a late 3-pointer to tie at Georgia State on Wednesday, then another in overtime as the Monarchs won their fourth OT game of the season to clinch the fourth seed for next week's CAA tournament.
Good as Bazemore has been lately, there were questions as recently as the start of the new year about how consistently effective he might be. The stress fracture to his foot last summer hindered him well into the season. He wasn't close to the guy voted the league's Defensive Player of the Year last March, or the preseason Player of the Year in October.
"As he got better, we were going to get better," Taylor said, "and as we got better, he was going to get better. As he's played better, it's made life easier on us, and as we've played better, it's made life easier on him."
Bazemore's roles have changed dramatically since he arrived. As a redshirt and even as an underclassman he was often, shall we say, the target of Taylor's affection.
"I wasn't even suiting up," Bazemore recalled. "I didn't have anything to do with the games. I would think, 'Why are you on me?' But it paid off. I started taking practice more seriously. I treated practice like my games."
Bazemore dutifully chased around upperclassmen Brandon Johnson, Brian Henderson and Abdi Lidonde, while getting stronger and absorbing the game's finer points.
"You're only as strong as your weakest link," he said. "By me being a redshirt, I was the weakest link. If I came to play every day in practice, those guys would get better, and we got some success out of it."
Bazemore then had the luxury of playing alongside upperclassmen such as Frank Hassell, Ben Finney and Darius James.
" 'Baze' with the other groups was kind of able to do his deal," Taylor said. "Run around, steal the ball, dunk the ball, to be a little more of a free spirit. This year he's had to take on so much more responsibility. He plays multiple positions. He plays demanding minutes. He's expected to do a variety of things."
Leadership comes naturally, Bazemore said, but also requires work and touch. Growing up, he heeded mother Glynis' command to lead by example and often looked after his younger brother (brief aside: WyKevin Bazemore was recently named CIAA Freshman of the Year at Winston-Salem State).
"It's definitely something I had to work at, as well," he said. "Getting people to trust you, getting that sense of companionship, being able to adapt to 12 other personalities took some work."
Bazemore doesn't necessarily seek the limelight, but he doesn't shrink from center stage, either. He understands that he became the face of a relatively young and inexperienced group. Still, it's humbling to have a 24x15-foot photo of yourself hanging on an outside wall of the Constant Center, for all to see on Hampton Boulevard.
"I've almost gotten in so many 'craccidents' driving by there," he said with a grin, playfully combining "crash" and "accident." "I was doing a photo shoot and I thought it was just for the team picture or something. I almost cried the first time I saw it. It's so far-fetched to me. I'm so grateful to have that up there. People say, 'You got your face up there,' like it's a gift. I'm like, man, I've worked hard."
Bazemore said that once his basketball playing career is done, he hopes that his degrees — human services and criminal justice — will provide a gateway for him to mentor young people, particularly in his home area.
"Kids from my area come see me play and they say, I want to be like you," he said. "I tell them, be better than me. I went through the same things you're going through. It can be done."
School and hoops leave him little free time. When he has some time this summer, he said he wants to try to learn to play the piano and the guitar. Maybe learn a second language; he's thinking about French. Eventually, he wants to travel and be able to do more than simply dribble a basketball and show off a couple of college diplomas.
But for now, there's more dribbling to be done. He and Taylor have reached an understanding. After five years, each knows that he can count on the other.