CHICAGO — Kamau Faines, one of only two Walter Payton College prep grads to ever make it to the NCAA men's basketball tournament, takes his Chicago roots everywhere with him.
Last year, Faines, a South Shore resident, received a massive tattoo of the city's flag on his back. He also has Chicago's red-white-and-blue flag affixed to his dorm room wall at Davidson College, where he is a freshman walk-on guard on the team's NCAA tournament-bound basketball team.
"I love my city," said Faines, whose 10th-seeded squad faces 7-seed Iowa on Friday night in Seattle. "I feel like my city is what made me the person I am. There's nothing like growing up in Chicago and playing basketball in Chicago, especially on the South Side."
Faines played four years of varsity at Payton, including the first three for his father, Larry, an emergency room doctor at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. Larry Faines was not retained prior to Kamau's senior season, but Kamau had a say in his successor as he helped interview the finalists for the position.
Anthony Ciaravino of Canaryville, who was named the head coach, said Faines "is one of the hardest working and most athletic kids I ever coached."
"He left his footprint on our program," Ciaravino said. "Kamau is the epitome of character, quality and excellence on and off the court."
Justin Breen says Faines has high hopes for his future:
Added Payton athletic director Arlene Bertoni-Mancine: "Kamau was an excellent student-athlete and leader here at Walter Payton. Walter Payton is very proud of Kamau and wishes him luck in the game."
Faines, who has played seven games and scored seven points, joins former Cal Poly star Chris Eversley as Payton's only two graduates to reach the NCAA men's basketball tourney. Faines said he was inspired by Eversley's accomplishments in high school and college. His other hoops role models are Ohio State's Sam Thompson, a Whitney Young graduate and Faines' second cousin, and longtime friend Ahmad Starks, an Illinois guard and Whitney Young alumnus.
Faines also said his sister, Mari, a Payton graduate who played volleyball at Colgate, motivated him to fare well in school and sports.
Faines' first name means "Silent Warrior" in Kikuyu, a language spoken primarily in Kenya. He said it likely won't be easy to keep quiet while cheering for his teammates during the NCAAs.
"When I used to watch the NCAA tournament on TV, I always wanted to be a part of that," Faines said. "To be a part of the NCAA tournament, it's a blessing to me. It's good to know hard work pays off."
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