Sa’eed Nelson: Making American basketball great again
Though just 5’11”, freshman point guard Sa’eed Nelson is making a huge impact on AU’s men’s basketball team this season.
During Saturday afternoon’s 77-62 win against Youngstown State, Nelson led the team in scoring with 22 points on 9-17 shooting. He also tied for the team lead with nine rebounds, had five assists and four steals.
Through the team’s first nine games, Nelson leads AU in points per game (16.9), assists per game (2.8) and steals per game (2.9). His 37.2 minutes per game not only leads the team, but is also tied for fifth nationally and the most among freshmen.
“Sa’eed’s been playing great for us; it’s helped us out a lot,” sophomore guard James Washington said. “Him getting to the rim and penetrating, it’s also good for everybody else. When they start to collapse, he can get other guys shots as well and it gets the ball moving. He’s been playing really good.”
Based on Nelson’s high school resume, it’s not surprising to see how he has dominated thus far.
A graduate of St. Augustine Prep in Richland, New Jersey, Nelson was named the Cape Atlantic Player of the Year his senior season. He averaged 21.1 points and 8.4 assists, while leading the team to a 30-2 record and the South-Jersey Non-Public A Title.
Nelson’s coach in high school was Paul Rodeo, who coached current AU assistant coach Scott Greenman. Now in his 40th season as St. Augustine’s head coach, Rodeo has over 860 career wins and five state titles.
"He’s a really good player. He just knows what he’s doing. He’s got all the right tools,” head coach Mike Brennan said on his star point guard. “And again, just being from that (St. Augustine High School) program. I can’t say enough about that. And then he’s got a good mind for the game, good skill, coachable, tough kid, just everything you’d want in a player.”
With Nelson playing so much, it may be natural to worry if he hits a proverbial “freshman wall” the way other newcomers do when adjusting to the speed of collegiate level play. However, Brennan said he is not concerned, and knows Nelson is ready for what lies ahead.
“He’s used to playing a lot. He’s played a lot of ball in his life,” Brennan said. “He’s a lot like Charlie [Jones]. He’s always zeroed in throughout when we’re practicing.”
Nelson already has 152 points for the Eagles this season. To put this in perspective, Delante Jones, the team’s leading scorer from conference play in 2015-2016, did cross the 150 point mark till the 18th game of the season last year.
Nelson still has a long way to go if he wants to be considered an all-time great at American, but his start is a very promising sign of the future to come for AU basketball.