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Diplomacy being what it is, Mamye Bacote wishes she could watch her grandson play more often

by Rich Radford

When she makes it to the Ted Constant Convocation Center in Norfolk to watch Old Dominion University play basketball, Mamye Bacote can often be found sitting a few rows behind legendary musician and Grammy Award winner Bruce Hornsby, who happens to be a regular at ODU games.

On Saturday night with the first-half clock about to expire against Louisiana Tech, Aaron Bacote took the ball into the lane and neatly deposited it to register his 14th and 15th points of the half.

Bacote is ODU’s leading scorer this season and would finish the night with 25 points. He is a 6-foot-5 sophomore guard from Hampton High with nice range on his jump shot … and a grandmother in the stands who is notable in her own right.

Hornsby got up from his seat and walked a few rows, leaning down to talk to Mamye Bacote.

“He’s having a heck of a game tonight,” Hornsby said.

She just smiled. It was a warm smile, but it was also a stately smile.

Mamye Bacote is a representative in Virginia’s House of Delegates, the 95th District, which covers parts of Newport News and Hampton. She would make it to more of Aaron’s games were it not for her duties to her constituents.

“Aaron called me the other day to wish me a happy 75th birthday,” Bacote said. “I told him I really wanted to be at the game against Rice, but I would make it Saturday night no matter.”

This year, the Virginia General Assembly runs from January 8 to March 8, the heart of her grandsons’ season. Yes, that was plural. There’s a high school grandson playing as well and Mamye Bacote makes it a point, when she can, to make it to the Friday night high school game followed by the Saturday night college game.

Tuesday night high school games, however, are out of the question: The state’s Transportation Committee, on which Bacote sits, meets at 7 a.m. on Wednesdays. Friday’s session at the General Assembly begins early to allow the state’s representatives to have some semblance of a personal life on the weekends.

Mamye Bacote is left to scramble on those weekends, making up for lost time as only she can.

She comes from an athletic background all the way around, married to a high school football coach (her husband Theodore Bacote was head football coach at Ferguson High, among other positions). She quickly hints that her grandson just might get his athleticism and shooting touch from her.

“Yes, I played,” Bacote said. “I played back when girls basketball was a little different. I was what was called a ‘roving’ guard, which meant I could play at both ends of the court and cross halfcourt.”

Bacote takes humble pride in her grandson Aaron’s basketball exploits, and says it makes for some great hallway conversation at the General Assembly.

“Ron Villanueva stopped me the other day and said, ‘Looks like I need to get to an ODU game and watch Aaron play!’ ” said Bacote, referring to Virginia Beach’s representative of the 21st District. “That’s the kind of thing that makes me smile.”

Each year, the state Senate and the House round up players to represent them in a charity game at the Siegel Center on VCU’s campus. The proceeds for the game go to the Medical College of Virginia’s Massey Center to help battle cancer. This year, the Senate won by two points and broke an eight-year losing streak. The Senate won when Sen. Louise Lucas talked nephew DeAngelo Hall and two other Washington Redskins – David Amerson and Josh Morgan – into playing for the Senate team.

The next day, Mamye Bacote heard it from multiple sources: The House needs Aaron Bacote to play next year. “I had to remind them that there are NCAA rules that forbid that,” Mamye Bacote said.

She entered politics nearly two decades ago at the urging of her high school students, who were always telling her she should. “Once I retired from high school teaching, I thought, ‘Why not?’ ” Bacote said. “So I joined the Newport News City Council.” After almost a decade in that role, she ran for the seat in the House of Delegates and has held the position now for 11 years.

“People ask all the time when I’m going to quit and I tell them I’ll quit when I’m tired, and I’m not tired,” said Bacote, who also is an adjunct professor of political science at Hampton University.

She gazed out onto the court as her grandson Aaron ran by where she sits. No doubt he is a good basketball player, but Mamye Bacote is more proud of something else he is.

“You know, a lot of people don’t know that Aaron finished fifth in his high school graduating class,” she said. “I’m proud of his ability to play basketball at this level, but I’m more proud that he’s a good person who works hard in the classroom.”

Spoken like a true stateswoman.

But more than that, spoken like a grandmother.


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