BULLOCK’S CONFIDENCE STEMS FROM CHILDHOOD IN KINSTON, NC
Reggie Bullock was in sixth grade when he made one of the most memorable 3-pointers of his life.
It was at a youth basketball camp in his hometown of Kinston, North Carolina, hosted by local legend Jerry Stackhouse. The shot came in final minutes of a campers versus staffers scrimmage where Stackhouse, 17 years Bullock’s senior, picked him up on the perimeter.
“He was guarding me and I just remember getting a pick and shooting a three and it hitting off the back glass,” Bullock recalled. “Everybody was gassing me up after that.”
Stackhouse and Bullock have been close since, the NBA veteran serving as a mentor. They both went to the University of North Carolina, signed with the same agency out of college and they both grew up in Kinston, a city 80 miles from Raleigh near the Carolina coast that served as a training camp during the American Civil War and has been ravaged in sections by drugs and violence.
Bullock emerged from the city, both talented and hungry. The 3-pointer over Stackhouse was the first of hundreds he would make as a high school star and record-setting long-range shooter in Chapel Hill, where he improved in each of his three seasons, and was a long-ago prompt as to why the Clippers were bullish on the 22-year-old heading into last month’s NBA Draft.
“I like him,” Clippers senior vice president of basketball operations and head coach Doc Rivers said. “He’s one of the guys we wanted. We felt like we needed more shooting; he does that. I love the fact he’s a big program guy. He’s been a guy that understands his role, that’s what he did at North Carolina.”
That role, for the most part, meant shoot with unabashed confidence. He’s done that so far through two games in the NBA Summer League. He’s 5-for-16 from 3-point range and 12-for-27 overall in 62 minutes.
“I feel like I’m a good spot-up, knock-down shooter,” Bullock said. “So, I just have to knock those shots down coming off screens and stuff. I’m just going to continue to work on floppy and just coming of screens and shooting the ball with confidence.”
That confidence seemingly doesn’t waver. He missed four of his first five shots Sunday and found a way to make impact, scoring 18 points for the second game in a row, including making all seven of his free throws. Clippers guard Maalik Wayns praised his rookie teammate’s aggressiveness.
“He can shoot the ball,” Wayns said. “He can really shoot the ball and he doesn’t lose confidence. In the first quarter [Sunday], he missed a couple of open looks and kept shooting and it started to go down for him.”
“He always seems to be open. He runs hard off screens and he knows how to get open. You can tell he did that a lot in college.”
Scott Wood, who was a rival of Bullock’s in the ACC while attending North Carolina State, talked about his relationship with Bullock in the short time he’s been teammates with him on the Clippers’ Summer League entry.
“I’ve always thought he was a really good player,” Wood said. “Obviously, when we were playing against each other and we were rivals we wanted to kill each other. Just getting to know as a teammate and as a person, I’m realizing he’s just as good of a teammate as he is a player.”
Bullock’s mental makeup likely stems from childhood, where he was raised by his grandmother, Patricia Williams, following the death of his father when Bullock was six. He is thoughtful and reserved. He looks people in the eye, often addresses them as “sir” or “ma’am” with a tinge of a southern drawl escaping, and he’s almost always smiling. Even when he clearly disagreed with a foul call in a Summer League game, he started to react negatively and the smiled curled up softening his expression.
He has tendency to make the best of situations.
With help from people like Stackhouse, Wells Gulledge, his high school coach, and foremost his grandmother, Bullock had a familial support-system despite growing up without a father. When he played in the Jordan Brand All-American Game in high school, Bullock had what seemed like his entire hometown there to support him.
“My city took a bus from Kinston all the way to New York,” Bullock said. “It just showed me there was a lot of support from my city and I only felt it was right to ride back on the bus with them. My grandmother put the whole thing, getting the bus from Kinston and having everyone come up and support me.”
Less than two years later his grandmother passed away. Bullock was a freshman at UNC.
“She raised me all my life,” Bullock said. “She was the backbone of our family, so it was just tough losing somebody who’s that special that basically raised you all your life. She was just a really special person.”
Four weeks ago, with Bullock nearly a lock to be a first round selection, he paid homage to Williams and his hometown by staying in Kinston to watch the NBA Draft with his friends and family.
“My city supports me 110 percent, my best friends are there, and if I wasn’t at that table [in Barclays Center] with my family then I felt like I should be with them [at home],” Bullock said. “It wouldn’t have felt right to not be with them. I just felt like I owed it to my family.”
Bullock’s connection to his family and late grandmother, who he honors with a tattoo on his arm, helps explain why the Clippers liked him so much, not just as a basketball player.
“I liked the way he carried himself,” Rivers explained.
Bullock learned how to carry himself long before he ever met Rivers, and even before that 3-pointer with his hometown hero guarding him.