The walk from the locker room tunnel to the game floor is far more than ordinary. As the team exits, the emotion going through the minds of players is like someone getting on a roller-coaster for the first time. Excited, ready for action, thinking about what the ending might feel like. It seems like a dream for some to make that short walk into a packed arena of fans. It is a reality some are more than thankful to have.
March 1, 2022, was a night only Kamari McGee could describe how he felt at that moment. A first for him, something he dreamed about as a young kid, became a reality; getting an opportunity to play for a spot in the NCAA Tournament. His whole first year was full of new experiences.
After having time to reflect on his first season as a Division 1 basketball player, he got the opportunity to speak out on how his life has changed. Being an athlete is demanding work; balancing classwork, sports, and limited free time; it’s something that allows individuals to grow on and off the field or court. McGee cannot be more thankful for the chance.
About two percent of high school athletes move on and play sports at an NCAA Division 1 school. McGee is not just a number when it comes to Division 1 athletes; he is just one of a short few who can live to tell the tale about the intriguing lifestyle. Going to St Catharine’s High School in Racine, Wisconsin, made it happen. The leap from playing sports in high school; to playing at the highest college level is a big one. First, McGee explains that he thinks he learned a lot in his first year at UW- Green Bay.
“It was pretty fun playing my first year of D1 basketball,” he said. “I know the season didn’t go as well team-wise but for me personally I felt I grew tremendously as a player.” He also said that he experienced the tremendous change of pace first-hand.
Home Grown Beliefs
Being a team player is the most important part of playing at the level he is playing in. But personal growth is also key. The mindset of an individual has to be non-individualized. The mind has to be set on the team first – individual success will come along. This lesson shows more as you gain experience playing at the highest level. McGee learned to stay true to himself in his new adventure. One lesson he thinks about the most is staying humble.
“I learned to be thankful for being in the position that I’m in and not take it for granted,” he says. “There’s someone in the world wishing that they could play the sport of basketball, or any sport, so I’m just very thankful.”
McGee’s Impact on the Team
Being humble not only affects the individual; but also changes the demeanor of a group. Any sports team you have participated in may have felt like a family. McGee’s teammate touched on what the team’s culture looked like – as well as how McGee impacted that culture in his first season. Cade Meyer, a freshman forward on the UW Green-Bay basketball team, explains that he and his teammates created a special bond throughout the year. That bond helped create the culture the team was looking for.
In terms of McGee impacting the team, “Kamari brings a lot to the table in terms of culture,” Meyer says. “He is a very vocal teammate, who is also a great leader. He is a great foundation for building a team.”
Family Over Everything
The family culture with teammates is a change most athletes see when playing at the highest level. But McGee says the bond has with his biological family is second to none. His family gives him the support and motivation necessary during the craziness of being a student-athlete. Free time is limited due to practice, games, workouts, and schoolwork.
McGee touched on how his family knows the downfall of not having time to spend with their son or brother, but it is worth it, in the end, to see him succeed.
“They love and support me no matter what,” he said
His older sister, Jordann, says she gives him a ton of support and motivation to keep going.
“I would say I played the supportive role in getting Kamari where he is today.” Talking about the bond the two have over the game.
“For the games, I could not make, I would always send him a text or facetime him for a little pregame conversation,” she explains.
In terms of seeing him succeed at the highest level, she gives her brother the best advice.
“Good things do not happen overnight. You have to work for what you want no matter what it is,” she says.
In all the craziness of being a student-athlete, he knew that family is your biggest supporter no matter what. McGee gives props to his loved ones for giving him the motivation to make his life-long dream of playing at this level come true.
Kamari McGee has lived a balancing act in his first year. From gaining new experiences to balancing his free time with the sport he loves, it all comes back to being thankful for what he has. His roller-coaster ride of a first-year gave him perspective on how to succeed in multiple aspects of life, family, sports, and friends. Even with the limited time allowed for family and friends, McGee makes it all work, knowing he has the support of his inner circle.
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