Q&A: Nesbitt reflects on basketball success, hopes for future


Matt Petres

Xavier Nesbit has been a star of U-High basketball program throughout his time on it. He averaged more than 28 points per game, the 4th highest in Illinois.

Taariq Ahmed, Reporter

Since his freshman year, senior Xavier Nesbitt has found tremendous success as a member of the basketball program, and his last season of his U-High career was no exception. Xavier was recently named first team All-Conference and ISL Player of the Year for the second consecutive year, a feat only achieved by the late Zeke Upshaw in 2008 and 2009. Xavier led all IHSA Class 2A players (199 schools) averaging 28.3 points per game, ranked fourth in PPG for all 740 basketball teams in Illinois, and is also a Division I basketball recruit. Xavier shares the story behind his success as a student athlete, as well as the obstacles he has overcome in order to flourish.

Editor’s note: These responses have been lightly edited for clarity and simplicity.

What initially drew you to basketball? Who or what influenced you?
“My dad always talks about how he was just like a basketball fanatic when he was younger. I used to go to the gym with him while he played pickup with his friends every Saturday, and I’d just be shooting around the sides, messing around for hours. On top of that, my brother played and I used to hang around his basketball friends after tournaments and practices. I admired the way they acted, the way they dressed and all the other factors that play into being a basketball player.”

Where did you fall in love with basketball?
“I played for a team called Swish, and that’s where I fell in love with playing basketball. I used to cry at night about how I was on the B team for Swish and how I wanted to be good enough to be on the A team. That sadness and longing sparked something in me that made me decide I wanted to take basketball seriously as I got older.”

Is there someone who inspires you as an athlete?
“Zeke Upshaw — we all know that he was the best basketball player at Lab, and I just wanted to be as good as him. Being able to achieve what he had achieved was always a goal of mine because I wanted to do things that people didn’t really think were achievable at this school, which is typically thought of as an academic school and not so serious about sports. I think he’s a good example of that idea and he’s definitely my athletic inspiration.”

What challenges or obstacles have you faced as a student athlete? What sacrifices have you had to make in order to achieve your level of success?
“In terms of personal roadblocks, finding that balance with school and athletics has been a problem throughout my career thus far. Just splitting my time out between homework and making sure I’m practicing adequately in order to achieve my athletic goals. With that comes staying up late and being in the gym, or staying up late and doing homework. It was always tough to keep my basketball goals in mind while knowing how important school is. In terms of challenges faced on the basketball court, obviously, it can be a competitive sport, and you want to be the best. But I think trying to compare yourself to other people can be detrimental to your personal progress. One thing I found the most success in was focusing on myself and focusing on getting better every single day.”

What drives you to push through and continue?
“My dad — he does all he can to be at all of my games, and my mom, too. When they show their support, it pushes me to be the best, because I know they’re doing all they can for me. I feel like it would be a disservice to them, and to all the blessings I have received in my life, to not try to be the best player I can be.”

What was a memorable highlight of this past season? Which honors are you the most proud of?
“I think the highlight of this season was winning the regional championship because even though we won it last year as well, people didn’t really think we would be able to win it again. I think we even surprised ourselves by winning. Of the awards I won this school year, I’d say my favorite was probably the ISL Player of the Year, again, because I know that Zeke Upshaw was the last player to win it two years in a row, and so it’s cool to do something that only he was able to do.”

What do you hope to achieve by continuing to play basketball? What are your goals for the future?
“The personal statistics and accolades won’t matter as much to me, since these next four years of college might be the last games of serious, organized basketball that I play in my life. I’m not coming in with any expectations for myself except for knowing that I’m going to try my best and compete every day. Whether it means I’m going to play a lot and score a lot of points, or sit on the bench and squat on the side, I’ll be happy with whatever happens. If there is a career for me after college, then I’ll pursue that, but if there’s not, then I’m ready to move on. I’m more than prepared for life after basketball.”