20191223_cdp_sports_AOW

Charlottesville’s Zymir Faulkner is The Daily Progress Athlete of the Week.

Zymir Faulkner admits that, as a child, he was more into drawing and dancing than playing basketball.

The Charlottesville High School junior has been showcasing his fancy footwork on the hardwood this season as one of the elite scorers in Central Virginia.

In five games this season, Faulkner is averaging 22.4 points a game and has led the Black Knights to an impressive 5-0 start. Last Friday, he brought a standing-room only crowd at Charlottesville High School to its feet as he scored 23 points and grabbed 10 rebounds as the Black Knights defeated Albemarle for the first time in his career to garner Daily Progress Athlete of the Week honors.

“Going into the game against Albemarle, I was very nervous, not only because the magnitude of the game, but mainly because I had a lot of family members there that I didn’t want to let down,” Faulkner said. “The team and I were very focused the whole week on that game too. We were going hard in practice, not showing up late and really focused.”

That week of preparation and attention to detail was on display against the Patriots as he helped rally the Black Knights from a 21-14 first-half deficit. He buried back-to-back 3-pointers to give his team the lead late in the first half before Albemarle’s Josh Morse tied it with a trey of his own just before halftime. Faulkner then poured in 13 points in the final 16 minutes as the Black Knights pulled away for the win.

“I feel like what made me so successful was my ability to change pace and direction whenever I made a move without being out of control,” he said. “I slowed the game down into the pace that I was comfortable with. When I touched the ball, I felt as if I played strong and got to my spots and made shots and plays.”

The junior felts his biggest accomplishment against AHS was the double-digit rebounds.

“Everyone knows we’re a small team and we know that it’s a must that we rebound every game,” he said. “But for me to get that many rebounds, knowing how big they are, really stood out for me.”

Putting up points has become routine for Faulkner this season. He’s scored at least 20 points in all but one game this season, including a season-high 29 points in the regular season opener on the road against Chancellor.

“This season is going pretty well for me right now,” Faulkner said. “We are undefeated, that’s the most important thing, but I feel that I have improved as a player. I’m getting to the free-throw line a whole lot better and my defense is way better than it was last year.”

Not bad for someone that didn’t start playing basketball regularly until he was in the fifth grade.

“Growing up, I wasn’t really that much of a basketball fan,” he said. “I liked to dance and draw a lot. I was a big fan of the ‘Diary of A Wimpy Kid’ series, so I used to try to make my own comic using characters I made up. I also used to enjoy dancing and flipping a lot and my friends and I would go to the park and flip off slides or run up walls and flip. It was very dangerous, but I thought it was fun.”

Around the age of 10, Faulkner’s brother, Lorenzo, started taking him to the gym or the neighborhood basketball court and helped teach him the game.

“Lorenzo was the one who really put the ball in my hands and taught me different moves and helped me fall in love with the game,” Faulkner said. “He would have me up there for hours playing with him. Then one summer I became really good and I decided that’s what I wanted to focus on and give my all.”

He started last year as a sophomore and made an instant impact on Coach Mitch Minor’s team. He averaged 16.3 points, 4.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.9 steals a game as Charlottesville reached the regional tournament.

Despite a strong season, Faulkner felt there was something missing in his game and he spent the offseason refining his game.

“Last year, I didn’t feel I shot the ball as well as I should’ve,” he said. “This summer, I broke down my jump shot and worked on getting my balance off the dribble and shooting the ball with an arc on it. I also spent five days a week in the weight room getting stronger and it’s showing now during games as I’m able to play through aggressive defenders.”

A 6-foot-1 combo guard, Faulkner believes he can take over a game with his ability to score.

“I feel like my ability to change pace and hit difficult shots are what really make me unique as a basketball player,” he said. “I take a lot of shots that’ll make you say, ‘Why did he shoot that?’, but I make them, so my coach isn’t yelling at me as much. This summer, I focused on getting stronger, seeing the floor better and working on driving and finishing through contact.”

Another new look for Faulkner this season is his jersey number. He wore No. 11 last year for Charlottesville after wearing it the previous season as well. The junior wanted to wear No.3, but the number was already taken by senior Jake Bowling, so he settled for No. 2 instead.

“This year, I went with No. 2 because it was the first number that I ever wore,” he said. “It’s also significant because my father [who played for Minor at Charlottesville in the 1990s] wore No. 22 and I just felt like his number was needed so I could represent him.”

Faulkner is never satisfied and constantly looks for ways to improve his game. He tries to emulate Charlotte Hornets guard Devonte Graham and his ability to get separation and go right after a defender. The Charlottesville product also is a big fan of Memphis Grizzlies rookie Ja Morant and his court vision and ability to affect the game.

His favorite athlete of all time is Los Angeles forward LeBron James.

“I have a ton of respect for him,” Faulkner said. “The majority of the respect has to do with the person he is off the court. He’s a great role model and someone who gives back to his community.”

Away from basketball, Faulkner said he enjoys hanging out with family and friends. Music remains one of his passions and his favorite artist is Lil Baby.

“I love the way he’s able to tell his story in a song, but in a way, you want to listen to it and dance to it,” he said.

Faulkner is a big movie buff too. He is a big fan of Avengers: Infinity War and all of the Rush Hour movies.

In the classroom, Faulkner’s favorite subject is history.

“I like knowing the history and culture behind the world that we live in today, especially the African-American portion of history,” he said.

Though he is a standout on the basketball court, Faulkner is very reserved.

“Most people assume I don’t like them because I’m a quiet person,” he said. “I think what makes me unique is my ability to make people laugh and have a good day. There have been plenty of times where someone I know is having a bad day and I talk to them and put a smile on their face. I adore this trait so much because not everyone can do it. Making someone go from having a bad day to helping them enjoy it.”

Faulkner’s name has been a hot topic of discussion on the recruiting trail too. The junior has received interest from several programs, including Howard University, where he hopes to take an unofficial visit soon.

“The recruiting process has been going well so far,” he said. “I would love to play basketball at the Division I level. I would like to major in sports medicine. I’d like to still be connected with sports in some type of way and I think what athletic trainers do is cool and a very interesting job.”

Faulkner and his team return to action Friday when they play Kettle Run in the first round of the Daily Progress Holiday Hoops Classic at Charlottesville High School.

The junior is excited about the way his team has played thus far, but understands there’s plenty of season still ahead of them.

“We are undefeated, that’s the most important thing, but I feel that I have improved as a player,” he said. “I’m getting to the free-throw line a whole lot better and my defense is way better than it was last year. Everyone has put their egos aside and really come together as one. I feel like our team chemistry is way better and that helps in big ways. We’re just taking it one game at a time. All in all, I just think what’s made us so dominant early is that everyone is committed, willing to put in the work and want success for one another.”

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