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Baldwin is a star on the court, a gem in life

Barrow MVP

POSTED: August 6, 2014 12:00 p.m.
Adam Wynn/Barrow County News

Kamar Baldwin dribbles down the court in a 2013-14 game.

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Apalachee junior Kamar Baldwin was the statistical leader for the men’s basketball team in just about every category last season, including points scored, points per game, field goal percentage and three-point shot percentage.

Baldwin was also among the best in the state last year, amassing quite a few honors for himself. His 769 points, which ranked him first in Class-AAAAA and fifth in the state, earned him a spot on the All-State team for AAAAA according to the Georgia Sports Writer’s Association, the All-Region team for Region 8-AAAAA, an Atlanta Journal Constitution All-State runner-up listing and Region 8-AAAAA Region Player of the Year runner-up honor.

“Basketball’s been a part of my life ever since I was born,” Baldwin emphasized. “I have a love for the sport.”

With Baldwin’s leadership, Apalachee was the third-best scoring team in the state for all classifications while leading AAAAA with 76.7 points per game.

As talented a basketball player as Baldwin is, he is also known as an even better all-around person.

“You only hear good things about Kamar. If someone says something bad about him, that person’s lying,” Apalachee varsity men’s basketball coach Kevin Morris said of his star pupil.

“His knowledge of the game and his love of the game and his love for his teammates is one of the things that really, really makes him special,” Morris added. “There’s a lot of people who go down and shoot every time to make sure they get their 20 points a game, but Kamar’s not like that. He passes the ball and takes care of his teammates.”

Baldwin is a veritable star on the basketball court, but he was almost known as a two-sport stud before giving up his football pads in order to spend more time on the hardwood.

“It was tough because you want to push for both sports,” Baldwin acknowledged. “It was kind of hard training for both to do the best you can. I didn’t think I had the body for football strength-wise, so I decided to focus on basketball.”

With all of Apalachee’s success on the court last season, Baldwin admits that it was a good time to be a part of what was going on for the Wildcats.

“It was fun. We did a lot of good things. We accomplished some of our goals last season and I think we could’ve gone farther in the playoffs, but we got knocked out,” Baldwin reminisced.

With most of the team coming back, Baldwin hopes that his Apalachee team could contend for something more than a state playoff spot.

“It means we’ll be one of the top contenders in the region this year and that everyone should know what to do,” Baldwin said. “I hope we just play as a team and win games as a team together.

“I want us to see that we gave it our all and we accomplished our goals and that we won a region championship,” Baldwin added.

Although Baldwin plays unselfishly and tries to make everyone around him play better, he had a great opportunity to let loose this past summer in a dunk competition during the team’s camp at the University of Tennessee in Chattanooga.

“It was fun and it was very exciting. I had fun doing it,” Baldwin said.

Wildcat basketball fans will fondly remember Baldwin’s high-flying exploits throughout the season last year, but he says it gets even better when he can just play around. His usual style in-game is to just put the ball in the hoop, he puts some flare on the dunk when he can.

“I like the windmill the most,” Baldwin acknowledged.

Winning a dunk contest was one special experience Baldwin had at UT-Chattanooga, but it was far from the best. While participating with Apalachee at the college north of the border, Baldwin received his first college scholarship offer.

Baldwin makes it no secret that he wants to play college basketball, and this first offer is just one validation that his dream should one day come true.

“I’m glad to see all the hard work pay off that I’ve strived for my whole life, and it’s a blessing that I’ve been able to make it this far,” Baldwin beamed. “It makes me want to work harder because you know everybody’s wanting to stop you, and you just want to get that edge and prove that nobody can stop you.

Morris had a different memory from the camp, though, as his favorite side of Baldwin came out after a loss.

The Wildcats took part in one specific mini-tournament called an overtime challenge in which they had two-minutes to outscore their opponent.

Apalachee made it all the way to the semi-finals and faced a last-second deficit with Baldwin on the line shooting one-and-one.

“Well I’m thinking he’s an 80-something percent free-throw shooter, we’ve got this in the bag and we’re going on to the next one,” Morris said.

Baldwin would miss his first shot and Apalachee would go on to lose that event, but Morris most appreciated what came next.

“He left the gym at 11:30 at night, went to another gym and shot free throws until after midnight,” Morris noted.

“He gets up the next morning and is at our JV kids’ game at 9 a.m. helping coach the younger kids. He didn’t have to be up. His game was at 11 o’clock, but he’s up there helping the younger kids,” Morris highlighted. “Even the coach at Chattanooga mentioned that to him. He said, ‘That’s something special. Don’t lose that.’”

Coach Morris and Baldwin go way back long before his two years as a varsity starter, as the young man has been taking part in camps at Apalachee since elementary school. Even then, Morris recognized the natural talent and ability that his future star possessed, prompting him to give Baldwin the nickname “Franchise.”

For Baldwin, this pre-existing relationship makes all the difference.

“It’s good because I know I can go to Coach Morris if I need anything, or if there’s an issue on the team I know I can go to him and we can figure it out together,” Baldwin explained.

Aside from the obvious statistical boost that Baldwin brings to the team, Morris says that his best attributes are both athletic and personal.

“Coaching Kamar is real easy. He’s very focused, very determined to be good and he works at it and he takes things seriously. He makes me look like I know what I’m doing a lot of the time,” Morris joked. “He just cares about his teammates.”

The fact that he cares about his teammates has a tangible effect on Apalachee according to Morris.

“There’s a lot of players who don’t make their teammates better,” Morris noted, referencing the frequent debate between Michael Jordan and LeBron James. “Michael Jordan made everyone around him better, and that’s a lot like Kamar. Kamar makes everyone on his team better. He makes everybody better because he’s on the floor.

“He’s very special in that regard. He makes us go.”

“I do whatever needs to be done. If I need to get rebounds when we’re struggling on defense, I’ll do that. If one of my teammates gets hot, I’m passing the ball to them so they can stay hot. If I need to score, I’ll do that,” Baldwin said.

Baldwin is far from alone in this journey towards college basketball, though, as his mother and step-father have been vital support in his dream.

“It’d be pretty big for me and my family just because it’s exciting times and because of all the help that my family has given me and all the work they’ve put in to make this happen for me,” Baldwin recognized.

“His mom and step-dad deserve a lot of credit in his development. They work with him and spend a lot of time with him taking him back and forth to the gyms,” Morris boasted. “It’s easy to blame the parents when that kid’s bad, but we often don’t give parents enough credit when that kid’s good, and they deserve a little of the spotlight themselves.”

 

Despite being named to just about every list imaginable and reaping every individual award he can, Baldwin still recognizes that there are areas he can improve in. Keep in mind, he was fourth in AAAAA with 303 rebounds for 10.4 per game. He was eighth in the classification with 120 assists for 4.14 per game and ninth in AAAAA for steals at 75 for an average of 2.6 per game. His natural height advantage and his tenacity allowed him to be 13th in the class with 58 blocks per game.

“I want to improve my defense and get stronger,” Baldwin noted.

 

“It’s fun for any of our kids to go to college and achieve what they achieve, but for Kamar to go about it the way he goes about it is special,” Morris noted. “Kamar could be a very cocky and arrogant person with all of the success he’s had, but to see the kind of person he is with the success he’s already had and he’s going to have, it makes me even more happy because of the humility that he takes to everything and how much he cares for his teammates and how good of a person he is.”

 

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