SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 Sports) - It's been a rough year for the Utes basketball team. But Kareem Storey knows all about rough.
Raised on the mean streets of Baltimore, Storey had to grow up fast, and has matured into Utah's starting point guard as a true freshman. But Storey has had to be a leader ever since he was a little kid.
"Just growing up without my dad, I had to be the man of the house as soon as I came out of my mom's womb," Storey said. "I had to take care of my mom and my two sisters and make sure they were protected at all times."
That's asking a lot of a little boy, especially in the crime-ridden city of Baltimore.
"You always hear of somebody getting killed or something like that," Storey recalled. "It kind of hit home when one of my best friends was murdered. But I think it made me stronger as an individual. It made me go harder and stay more motivated."
Storey's biggest motivation is his mother, Alikia, who worked extremely hard in raising her three children.
"She's my role model," Kareem said. "I love my mother. She worked two and three jobs and busted her hump to make sure me and my sisters had what we needed. I give her something for Mother's Day and Father's Day. That's how it is."
Storey has developed a special bond with Utes head coach Larry Krystkowiak, who lost his mother when he was eight years old.
"Me and Coach K, we have a lot in common," he said. "As far as our upbringings, we went through a lot of the same things. So, I kind of connected with him instantly. We both faced a lot of adversity as youths. I can go to him and his door is open all the time. He's like a father figure, and anytime I need something I can go to him."
When Jiggy Watkins was kicked off the team, Storey was again thrown into a leadership role prematurely, having to run the Utes offense as a true freshman.
"It starts with me," said Storey, who is averaging 4.7 points and 3.1 assists per game. "So, if I do something wrong, the team is going to suffer. I have to be sort of a role model on the floor. I'm the one with the ball in my hand most of the time, so I just have to be a leader and follow what coach wants me to do."
The Utes have won only five games this year, but Storey is chalking this season up to one big learning experience.
"I think we've made a lot of progress since the beginning of the year," he said. "Next year, we're going to make a lot more progress. So, the things that we're going through right now are making us stronger. What doesn't kill us always makes us stronger."
Kareem Storey is as strong as they come.