Sa’eed Nelson breaks all-time AU scoring record
39-year-old school record falls as Eagles defeat Lafayette Leopards
On Nov. 11, 2016, a freshman guard from Pleasantville, N.J. scored the first points of his career for the American University Eagles against the #25 Maryland Terrapins.
Four years later, Sa’eed Nelson stands alone as the leading scorer in AU men’s basketball history, passing Russell “Boo” Bowers (1977-81), whose scoring record has stood for the last 39 years.
With a pull-up jumper two minutes into the game, Nelson scored his 2,057th point as an Eagle, surpassing Bowers’ previous all-time scoring record of 2,056. Nelson received a standing ovation following the shot and during the first timeout of the game from a packed student section that showed up early to witness history.
“It felt good,” Nelson said. “No matter what the record was, I was gonna come out and just play my normal game, being patient. They were going under my screens so I had to shoot the ball and I was knocking it down today.”
The record-setting bucket was far from the only scoring Nelson provided for the night, as he finished with a season-high of 30 points to power AU past Lafayette College, with a score of 79-59.
“The best thing about him is that he’s such a good kid and he’s coachable, so he continues to get better,” head coach Mike Brennan said. “Whenever you score 2,000 points, you’d think you have it all figured out, and he pretty much does.”
Nelson started the year ranked seventh on the school’s all-time scoring list, passing Frank Weiss, Andre Ingram, Frank Ross, Willie Jones and Brian Gilgeous on the way to surpassing Bowers on Wednesday night. Ingram and Ross, along with coach Brennan and teammates Jamir Harris and Yilret Yiljep, were part of a halftime video tribute to Nelson, congratulating him on his incredible career and accomplishment.
He also ranks third in career assists for the Eagles, just 13 dimes away from passing Derrick Mercer (2005-2009) for second place, and will likely finish his career second in steals behind only Jarion Childs (1996-2000).
The AU leaderboards are not the only ones that Nelson is climbing. He is currently 13 assists away from reaching eighth place on the Patriot League’s all-time assists list, and moved into third and second place respectively on the league’s all-time points and steals lists Wednesday night. He is the only active, and first in Patriot League history, Division I men’s basketball player with 2000 points, 500 rebounds and 500 assists for his career. His dominant career will stand in the record books for a long time.
But the impact Nelson’s career has had on the Eagle’s program goes beyond just numbers and stats. Since his freshman season, Nelson has been the leader and linchpin of the team.
“There's other guys out there that are talented and good, but it’s what kind of kid he is that makes him what he is,” Brennan said. “He’s been a pleasure just to coach and work with, and he wants to win. And when you have a leader of a team where all they want to do is win, that’s where everybody else follows.”
Throughout his four seasons at AU, Nelson has been through some difficult challenges. He’s stuck through multiple teammates transferring and back-to-back 20 loss seasons to start his career, obstacles that would have had most elite players looking elsewhere.
“It feels great,” Nelson said, when asked how he felt about his decision not to transfer. “We had a lot of ups and downs, and it was a lot of downs my first two years. But just sticking with it, and now it’s somewhat paid off. I’m just happy I made the choice to stay here.”
The season is not over for Nelson and the Eagles, as they hope for a Patriot League Tournament run that results in the first NCAA Tournament appearance of Nelson’s career, and the team’s first since 2014. But Wednesday night, they celebrated Nelson for breaking the 39-year-old record.
“I’ve believed from the beginning of the year, and I always tell our guys I feel as though we are the best team in the league, we just have to come out and play like it,” Nelson said. “We’re just ready for the next game and the playoffs.”