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Hawks’ Kent Bazemore Reaches Into Education With ARMS Foundation

ATLANTA -- Some professional athletes want to be part of the next big thing outside of sports. Kent Bazemore wants to inspire the future creators and developers of that next big thing.

In 2012, the Atlanta Hawks guard formed the ARMS Foundation, a non-profit organization whose mission is to “promote, motivate and inspire any young child who aspires to be part of the next generation of leaders.” The acronym, which stands for "Aspiration, Resilience, Motivation, Success," is a play on the seven-foot wingspan that has helped Kent sustain his NBA career into its seventh season.

“Basketball has opened so many doors,” Kent tells CloseUp360 during ARMS’ annual charity weekend this summer in Atlanta, which includes an UNO tournament and a golf outing. “I met so many people. I've been able to travel the world. It's really helped my family and it's gonna help families generations from now. Basketball has given me a position to leave a legacy and take care of those that come after me.”

Basketball also brought Kent, 29, to the staples of his fundraising efforts. He found UNO to be a strong team-building activity while playing for the 60-win Hawks in 2014-15.

“Every flight, whenever we had time, we were playing UNO,” he says. “Jeff Teague, Dennis Schroder, Thabo Sefolosha, Al Horford, Kyle Korver, those guys—we had a little table in the back, started playing UNO and it was our way. It meant a lot to us. Win, lose or draw, UNO always brought us back to center.”

Kent Bazemore

Kent Bazemore checks his cards during his annual ARMS Foundation's UNO tournament in Atlanta, Georgia. (Garrett Coyte)

Though Kent can’t quite replicate the full feel of a team plane for the participants in his tournament, he’s enjoyed sharing that same thrill of a friendly card game for a good cause.

“When you go UNO out, it's a great feeling. It's a feeling of accomplishment,” he says. “You got people around you high-fiving you. It just uplifts you.”

Golf, on the other hand, has helped Kent cultivate a calm to complement his normally frenetic disposition.

“Golf has given me a different perspective on life. It's helped me with my temperament,” he says. “I'm a very energetic player, and at times, it's hard to control your emotions.

“But ever since I dove into the game of golf, you can't lose it or your round's over. You hit a shot out of bounds, you can't throw a club. It's all about honing those frustrations and learning how good your misses are.”

Through ARMS, Kent uses two of his favorite pastimes to fuel his passion for education. By helping young students recognize their potential in their areas of interest—or, in some cases, career paths they had not considered—he has turned his underdog story of going undrafted in 2012 into an empowerment opportunity for children.

“The ARMS Foundation is the platform that can be consistent,” Kent says. “With how busy my schedule is, it's kind of hard to be there 24/7, as much as you want. But having the ARMS Foundation and having a great team that can still do stuff, or when I'm on the road or back in other places like Virginia and North Carolina, it was just a no-brainer to add to my life.”

Kent Bazemore

Kent tees off at his golf tournament in Atlanta during the second day of his annual weekend to benefit his ARMS Foundation. (Garrett Coyte)

When it comes to specific areas of education, Kent has been drawn to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). He likes that it deviates from the conventional curriculum of books and tests.

“The tech space is awesome because it allows you to use your imagination,” he says. “You can hand a kid a box of LEGOs and just watch him go to work, see what can they come up with.”

ARMS has provided scholarships for students from Old Dominion University, Kent’s alma mater, and Winston-Salem State University to attend tech symposiums at South by Southwest in Austin, Texas. The non-profit also paid for students from West Bertie Elementary School in his hometown of Kelford—a town of fewer than 300 people—to participate in the Eastern North Carolina 4-H Council Summer Camp. In addition, he bought gardening tools and robotics boards for Hutchinson Elementary School in Atlanta as part of the city's STEM programs.

With these projects, Kent is intrigued by the possibilities of a blank slate. He enjoys seeing what students will come up with when given a chance for their minds to run free.

“I'm more impressed with landscaping, for instance,” he says. “You look at a golf course. If you see a picture from before it was born, you're just in awe of the fact that someone can look at a plot of land, a couple hundred acres, and carve out one of the most beautiful pieces of land all over the world.”

“That and technology goes hand-in-hand because you're staring at a blank space,” he adds. “A lot of people get into architecture, I think, through tech because you look at a skyline in a city and you put this building there that just seamlessly goes in, or it may stand out a little bit. I think allowing kids to use that type of imagination in a controlled environment, and having the people with the right tools to navigate their train of thought, is the best way to get a lot out of yourself.”

Kent Bazemore

Kent prepares for his tee shot. (Garrett Coyte)

Now entering his fifth season with the Hawks, Kent has a wide-reaching platform to do just that. Eventually, he would like to create an academy with its own curriculum. To that end, seeing LeBron James open the I PROMISE School in Akron, Ohio was inspirational. Kent envisions his program teaching students about skills that go beyond acing exams in writing and math.

“Big picture, I want the ARMS Foundation to break ground on an academy,” he says. “And much like STEM, I want to develop a program to teach kids other things in life, like how to set up autopay, how to set a table, how to tie a tie—things that I wouldn't have known if I didn't have any of these outside sources.”

Until Kent founds his own school, he will continue to impact kids through his basketball camps each summer. Though those efforts don’t offer kids a supplemental classroom education, they have afforded him ample opportunity to pass on the lessons he’s learned about proper nutrition to the next generation.

No sugary sports drinks. Just clean water, healthy foods and lots of stretching.

“If kids can eat the right things, take care of their bodies, they’ll live a very long, prosperous life,” says Kent, whose wife, Samantha, is a life coach and nutritionist.

Kent still has years left in the NBA. In the meantime, his goals can also shape the futures of the students in his various programs.

Kent Honored in Kelford

While Kent has established himself in Atlanta, he's already a legend in Kelford, North Carolina, where he was immortalized on his hometown’s signage this offseason.

“We want to focus on underprivileged areas and trying to educate kids on what's going on around them,” he says. “With so much chaos, I want to try to teach kids how to stay focused and live a prosperous life, regardless of what's going on.

“Because there's always going to be something. There may always be division, you know, amongst the people of a nation or whatever. There’s always going to be something that may offend someone. So how can you understand that and still navigate your life, and get to where you want to get?”

Kent has come a long way from his humble roots in rural North Carolina, thanks in no small part to his dedication to education. With ARMS, he has all the tools he needs to help scores of others do the same in the years to come.

Jessica Camerato is a veteran NBA reporter based in Philadelphia. Follow her on Twitter.

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