By: Greg Levinsky
Flanked on the outside of his right leg lies a tattoo of a wolf. Boston University men’s basketball’s only senior, Kamali Chambers is alone in his class.
“The wolf is a pack hunter and I’ve got my pack,” Chambers said. “It may not be the fastest animal, but what it lacks in physical traits it makes up for it because its cunning, its creative and smart.”
A 5-foot-10, 180-pound guard, his size isn’t daunting. But what Terrier head coach Joe Jones appreciates is Chambers’ ability to lead by example. He defines the mantra of a “first in the gym the last to leave type of guy.”
“He’s someone that’s really impacted our program because he’s such a hard worker and is always doing the right thing,” Jones said. “He’s a special young guy.”
Chambers is a walk-on. He’s not on a scholarship, yet the 22-year-old has helped instill a culture of getting in the gym outside of mandated practice schedules within the program. Jones said Chambers has helped contribute to “the character, the work ethic and brotherhood” of the team.
“To have Kamali doing it and showing the guys the way, there’s no substitute for that,” Jones said. “You have to have guys that get what we’re about and get what we’re going, and he certainly does.”
Chambers takes pride the subtleties of his leadership style. He’s flourished in his leadership role, helping the 10 underclassman adjust to Division I basketball. He said it’s his “nature” to lead.
“Being a senior and helping them through those experiences, it’s actually pretty enjoyable,” Chambers said. “I can be that big brother for them.”
While his role on the team has always been as a rotational player, Chambers has found ways to shine in limited minutes. As a freshman he contributed six points and two steals in a second round CIT game against NJIT. Chambers had a career-high 16 points as a sophomore against Western New England, and started the final two non-conference games last year as a junior.
A Golden Valley, Minnesota native, Chambers has learned from some of the game’s top talents.
His older brother, Siyani, enjoyed a storied career at Harvard before taking his talents to play professionally oversees. Following All-Metro Team nods at Hopkins High School, Chambers spent a postgraduate year at the heralded Brewster Academy. There, he played with reigning NBA Rookie of the Year Donovan Mitchell. High-major Division I players Marcus Derrickson, Justin Simon, David Crisp and Jarred Reuter joined Chambers in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire for the 2014-15 year.
Brewster Academy head coach Jason Smith measured Chambers value in numerous ways.
“He was a tremendous teammate who played his role very well,” Smith said. “His personality and work ethic is definitely infectious.”
“He’s someone that every winning team needs to have in their quest to compete for a championship.”
Chambers said his year at Brewster Academy was his first experience spending time away from home, and it helped shape his tenacious work ethic.
“Being around people that you pretty much know are going to be in the NBA, and you’re trying to play over them you just have to work hard and bring it everyday,” Chambers said.
He still keeps in touch with Mitchell and the rest of his national championship teammates from Brewster Academy.
“We’re always in connection with each other,” Chambers said. “I like the brotherhood that we have.”
Chambers moved on to BU in the fall of 2015 and immediately fit in.
“Early on he was someone that I really impressed with, just the way he carried himself everyday,” Jones said. “He’s just inspiring because of how he goes about his business everyday.”
Chambers came in with a class that included Brandon Johnson and Kyle Foreman, both of whom left the team after their sophomore seasons. Johnson transferred to Division III Babson, and Foreman moved on from his basketball career.
Chambers said his status as a non-scholarship player cam contribute to having “a chip on his shoulder.”
“Just coming from that background it makes you work harder,” Chambers said. “It’s just extra motivation in my eyes.”
He got his wolf tattoo ahead of his junior season. Chambers aspires to professionally overseas, but for now, He is in a class of his own.
Greg Levinsky can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregLevinsky