Monday, May 25, 2015

An A.B. NAJEE update

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:

One reason why the Steph Currys are few and far between

The oft-repeated mantra is that any goal is achievable provided the hard work necessary to achieve it is undertaken.

However laudable such sentiment is, it's simply not true in athletics.

The truth is that each person can come close to maximizing his or her individual potential (being human prevents reaching 100%) given the appropriate time and effort, and that's it.

I'm not sure what to call it -- our DNA and physical wiring -- which also produces limits.

I was born never to play college basketball. Granted, I could have gotten closer than I achieved but, besides execution and relentlessness being requirements absent in me, I faced physical limitations that could not be overridden. These also include the synapses firing off throughout our bodies.

This New York Daily News article covers a portion of this, offering a study that determined certain athletes are quicker in their decisionmaking while under pressure alongside the sense that, for all, such can be bettered with practice.

Because there are other factors such as hand-eye coordination, spatial relations aptitude, quick twitch muscling and more that also come into play. Granted, these can be improved but there is a ceiling in everyone.

Nothing I could undertake would get me close to the level of basketball talents Steph Curry displays.

However, the bottom line remains that to be your best requires extracting the most you can from your mind and body alongside a healthy dose of realism.

Romeo to Linfield

Vince Romeo, De La Salle HS(CA) 2015: 5’10” guard; very good on ball defender in the mode of former Ohio State player Aaron Craft; had 5-6 steals in one game; excellent 3 ball shooter; gets to the rim and attacks at will; uses body well to finish with contact; Linfield College (OR) commit

Sounds like a solid get for former Foothill College Coach Shanan Rosenberg.

"Warm Up To Reno" tourney report

Here's the Team Select offered "Warm Up To Reno" tournament report, which took place May 16 and 17.

Andoh transferring

On Jeff Goodman's list of transfers, David Andoh is listed as departing from Liberty University.

Pritchett with four offers

Via Ballers Bridge: "Talented 2016 F @SP4 has been out here hoopin. Holds offers from Montana, Weber State, USF and St. Mary's."

That's 6-foot-5 Sayeed Pritchett of El Cerrito High.

Kerry Keating lands a point

Evan Daniels tweeted: "Ke'Jhan Feagin (Long Beach Poly) has committed to Santa Clara..."

Bronco backcourters Denzel Johnson and Brandon Clark, first and third in assists this season, have completed their eligibility.

Here's a January 2015 feature on Feagin.

Yee-Stephens shows out

Nor Cal Preps tweeted on Saturday: "Arsenal 17s with a good showing against Elite 24 from Oregon. Santa Cruz 2016 guard Kaijae Yee-Stephens showed range on his shot."

Garcia lands at UC Merced

UC Merced has signed a local: "Branson Garcia – Garcia joins the list of incoming players as a 6'2 guard from Pitman High School. A four-year varsity player, Garcia averaged over 17 points a game this season. He's a smart and athletic player who is easily coachable and picks up details very quickly, which should come as no surprise as he has a 4.0 GPA. Garcia was also a track star in high school who high jumped 6'2. While not the size of a traditional wing player, Garcia has the versatility to be played anywhere from point guard to small forward on the floor. Viewed as a high upside recruit, fans will grow to love Garcia's hard working mentality."

Frankie Tovar offers more.

Shorter shot clock not the answer

Matt Stephens writes that shortening the shot clock will not up the scoring average next season in college hoops.

DeCourcy grounds matters in reality

Utilizing Josh Groban and even Matt Lauer as examples, Mike DeCourcy skewers the faux alarm over one-and-done college performers. Life is not a black-and-white proposition and the NCAA and its schools have long ago left any higher ground, if they ever indeed camped out there.

Borzello and Burlison on Josh Jackson

Jeff Borzello tweeted: "Josh Jackson's overall defensive ability is second-to-none. Plays passing lanes, contests shots, lateral quickness."

Don't see that often from the creme of the crop talents. Do catch him in action at Prolific Prep.

Frank Burlison offers more.

A new one from Coach Bob Walsh

Via Coach Bob Walsh: "The Brain of Elite Athletes"

Delly making some mad

Ed Isaacson tweeted: "I can’t believe there is actual talk that Dellavedova may intentionally be trying to hurt people on the court. Nothing wrong with some hustle."

With tongue definitely in cheek, Fran Fraschilla provided: "Now look what Dellavedova did. He's got EVERYBODY diving on the floor in a playoff game. Someone's going to get hurt."

Marques Haynes passes

Marques Haynes has died at age 89.