Professional Sports

North Carolina Native Achieves NBA Dream


Professional Sports

North Carolina Native Achieves NBA Dream

Article reposted from Daily Advance
Author: Owen Hassell

Dad had to know the news.

His 35-year-old son made good on a life goal he first proposed when he was 8. Of course, then it was easy for pops to politely dismiss a kid from a small community about his intent to play in the NBA.

“He’s a loving and nurturing father, but he’s also very honest, and he was very honest at that moment,” Quentin Sawyer said. “He said, ‘Maybe you should have a backup plan.’”

No, the Camden native is not a player in the league, but that backup plan is just fine.

Sawyer accepted a job as an assistant athletic trainer for the Phoenix Suns, the culmination of 12 years in sports medicine at the college level at such stops as North Carolina, Campbell and Michigan State.

He begins his first regular season working in the NBA tonight when the Suns are at home against the Sacramento Kings. Sawyer has already connected with the organization and its players by working through much of the summer league and preseason contests.

He works alongside two other assistants and the head trainer, and will attend all home and away games. Many days already start with treating players such as Tyson Chandler and Brandon Knight at 7 a.m., part of a grind that’s plenty different from the collegiate ranks.

“The travel is a big difference,” Sawyer said. “We start season with four games in six days, it’s par for the course with NBA travel. From a health care standpoint, it’s preparing people to play 4-5 days a week.”

Sawyer, a three-sport athlete at Camden who graduated in 2000, is also tasked as a sports science coordinator, where he collects data on the difficulty of practices in an effort to monitor wear and tear on body on a daily basis.

Learning more about the players means he’s already picked up a few interesting tidbits, such as Leandro Barbosa’s exercise in the training room of tossing a small medicine ball in a shooting motion to warm up his muscles.

“A large portion of my job is to develop relationships with these guys and ensure that they’re comfortable with me as a person so that they have health care needs and have that trust,” Sawyer said. “Pro level veterans have been to different places and are in tune with their own needs. They do what they have done for their career what’s worked.”

Barbosa won a championship in 2015 with the Golden State Warriors, a team Sawyer has followed the past few seasons beyond the team’s success and the “Splash Brothers” duo of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson.

His excitement for those games also includes reconnecting with another Golden State standout in Draymond Green, who he worked with when he and the NBA All-Star were at Michigan State.

Now he’ll see them often on an opposing bench, since both are in the Western Conference’s Pacific Division. The Warriors are at Phoenix on Sunday.

“I’m looking forward to the experience of viewing this league from a different vantage point instead of being a spectator,” said Sawyer, who is a year away from earning his doctorate in sports medicine from A.T. Still, a university in nearby Mesa, Arizona.

Of course, he will cite Phoenix as his favorite NBA team. As a youngster, however, he grew up a fan of the Chicago Bulls during the Michael Jordan era as well as the in-state Charlotte Hornets.

Sawyer has been to Final Fours with both UNC and Michigan State, and even with such a tremendous opportunity in the NBA, his favorite moment came on his first day working a game for the Spartans.

It was in 2011 when they faced his alma mater Tar Heels on an aircraft carrier, where he also met President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama.

Sawyer takes his experiences from Camden with him, citing the hard work and commitment learned from his parents and high school coaches such as basketball’s Mark Harnly and football’s Scott Jones as reasons why he’s been able to fulfill his dream of working in the league.

As for dad’s early advice?

“I called him and said, ‘Hey, I know it’s not the uniform, but I made it to the NBA,’” said Sawyer. “He’s very proud.”