A Tight Circle
KINSTON, N.C. --- As Reggie Bullock navigates the concourse at Kinston High an hour before a tip-off against Greene Central, it's clear he wears the title of big man on campus well.
The senior guard towers over the crowd and shouts of "Reggie!" are met with a big smile, a quick point of the finger and his trademark, high-pitched laugh.
Nobody loves the city of Kinston more than Bullock. With a personality as big as his 6-foot-9 wingspan, Bullock embraces every bit of his adopted home town. Jerry Stackhouse might have put Kinston High on the map, but Bullock wants to keep it there.
"It's important to me. I've been living here basically all my life," Bullock said. "Kinston has a long line of tradition with basketball ... I'm glad to be able to leave my footprint at this school."
While Bullock is the people's champion of Kinston, he's also cautious about who he lets in his life.
In a small city like Kinston, it's easy to get in trouble, so Bullock keeps his circle tight. Outside of his grandmother Patricia Williams, Kinston head coach Wells Gulledge and friends Dory Hines, Dallas Best, Dajonte Wise and Marquez Jones — Bullock doesn't let a lot of people get too close.
"I have like a little gate around me - only certain people come in," Bullock said. "I feel like if you weren't in my life when I was younger or when I needed you, why are you trying to be in my life now?"
In just over three years of high school, Bullock has gone through five different cell phone numbers to limit some of the random calls and text messages.
"On my facebook, I really don't respond to people because so many messages build up. I've got like 1,000 friend requests right now," Bullock said. "Just random people."
Some athletes have a posse or entourage, but this group hardly fits the description. Hines and Best have been teammates with Bullock since seventh grade while Wise and Jones have been friends since middle school. The group spends most afternoons and weekends together, either hanging out or each others' houses or traveling to Raleigh on the weekends.
You won't find any handlers or hangers-on around Bullock, just a family.
"They're the closest people to me." Bullock said. "My dad passed away so Coach Gulledge played a big part in my life and also some of my friend's dads. ... They try to keep their hand over my head just to make sure things are going good."
Hines said each member of the group looks out for each other.
"A whole lot of people try to be friends with him," Hines said. "A whole lot of girls try to get in his way, but he's not letting it distract him. He's just doing what he's been doing — keeping the people who's been in his life, still in his life, not the newcomers who try to take over."
Bullock acknowledged that gangs can be a problem at Kinston but said he'd never been approached. He said the people at his school mostly respect his decisions and even look out for him.
"People keep me away from the bad stuff," Bullock said. "If they know something is about to go down, they'll say 'Reggie get away' or something. I don't fight. I don't have beef with anybody."
Gulledge says you don't have to look any further than the front page of the newspaper to see why Bullock has to be so careful. The coach says the fact that Bullock has made it to where he is speaks to the type of character he has and the job his grandmother has done.
"He is a survivor," Gulledge said. "He's probably had every chance in the world not to be the person he is — just growing up in some situations where he easily could've been swayed to make different decisions. I think he really just made the right decisions in life with his grandmother there to keep him grounded."
(Check back tomorrow for Part III ...)