So season one is in the books for A.B. Najee at Mayville State and here's a followup to an earlier feature on the 6-foot-3 former Berkeley High and Diablo Valley College (DVC) basketball player who is remarkably focused and articulate.
"The season went great. I started every game (the only Comet to do so) and learned so much, it was a great experience. I was the second-leading scorer and finished first in three-pointers made (41). We ended up 18-11." On the year, Najee averaged 11.1 points per game, shooting 45% overall, 43% on trey attempts.
"[When I got there] the coaches expected me to be a post player/glue guy and not the shooter on the team. But I spent hours and hours in the gym and extra time on the shooting machine. The coaches were warning me that I would get burned out. I expected to be good but I don't think my coaches thought I would be as good. It was a blessing."
For someone who tried to play high school ball to no avail and attempted to make the roster at two different community colleges before succeeding at DVC, Najee is clear about who and what kept him going.
"My Mom, brother and a few friends helped plus three guys who believed in me, Justin Reid, Derrick Jones and Bradley Johnson.
Reid, then an assistant at College of Alameda, consoled Najee after not making the team there. "He told me I was definitely good enough and offered to do whatever he could to help which included buying me food when I needed it. He's kind of a father figure."
"The same with Derrick Jones (an assistant coach at DVC). He worked with me for countless hours and accepted me into his family along with supporting me in school and on the court even when I was too stubborn to see success in my future."
"With Bradley Johnson, who played in college and professionally, before I played anywhere, he asked me what I wanted to do and I said I want to play college basketball. He told me to be here [at the gym] tomorrow at 5 a.m. so I got there at 4:30 a.m. We worked out and that prepared me for trying out with the JC teams. I talked to him recently when I felt I wasn't getting better and he told me there is no such things as walls in life, just plateaus -- that I need to keep working to take the next step."
One takeaway for Najee: "I've learned no man achieves anything by himself and that it takes a man to embrace that."
He is majoring in communications with a minor in journalism. "I work on the school newspaper, the local newspaper and I do radio talk shows at school. I'm trying to be open to as many avenues as possible."
Unlike Charles Barkley, Najee has a different outlook regarding influence -- "I want to be a role model. I want kids to look up to me. There are so many people counting on me and I really can't stop. Every single day, I want to be able to say I did everything I can do that day."
One element behind this drive for betterment is "to play at the next level. It's been a process but I know I can play at the next level. I want to see the world and experience new things in life."
Besides his production on the court, Najee is also aces in the classroom. "I made the Dean's List and the Honor Roll."
He also believes his current North Dakota location is beneficial. Just less than 2,000 residents populate Mayville but Najee sees that as a positive. "I can get so much more done working out and practicing. It gives me the time to do my work. All I'm doing just shows me what I'm capable of achieving. I want to be great, plain and simple."
Well said and done.
Below is Najee's 2014-15 season highlight film: