Ninth grader shows leadership, dedication on basketball court

HEADS+UP.+Freshman+Xavier+Nesbitt+dribbles+the+basketball+against+a+Francis+Parker+defender.+Both+he+and+his+teammates+consider+him+a+leader+on+the+team.+According+to+captain+Tolu+Johnson%2C+Xavier+is+one+of+the+leaders+on+the+team.+A+regular+starter%2C+Xavier+has+been+one+of+the+team%E2%80%99s+top+scorers.+

Maria Shaughnessy

HEADS UP. Freshman Xavier Nesbitt dribbles the basketball against a Francis Parker defender. Both he and his teammates consider him a leader on the team. According to captain Tolu Johnson, Xavier is one of the leaders on the team. A regular starter, Xavier has been one of the team’s top scorers.

Nicky Edwards-Levin, Sports Editor

In a huddle before tip-off, the five starters for the varsity basketball team put their arms around each other. Each starter says a few words, preparing himself and his teammates for the upcoming battle. Finally, the starters turn to freshman Xavier Nesbitt, the starting guard. 

Leading by example, Xavier has excelled, showing a remarkable work ethic, raw leadership and undisputable talent.

Hunter Tyndall

According to Hunter Tyndall, a junior who also played varsity when he was a freshman, Xavier is one of the team’s primary assets.

“He’s really motivational — when we’re playing, he’s always talking to the other guys on the team, doesn’t really make that many mistakes, always focused, on time, funny guy too,” Hunter said, listing Xavier’s contributions. “Great guy to have in the locker room.”

Beyond being a friendly face on and off the court, according to Hunter, Xavier’s knowledge of the game makes him an especially important teammate. Hunter said that Xavier’s knowledge of basketball makes him almost coach-like.

“He knows the game really well, so when he sees something he knows on the court, everybody’s gonna listen to him,” Hunter said. “Everyone tries to do what he does and follow him, so the more he talks the more everyone else starts talking, and things run smoothly.

But regardless of his abilities on the court, Xavier said that becoming a leader has required a learning curve. Not being familiar with team customs — from team meetings to joking in the locker room — has been a challenge, but nothing throws him off.

“In regular talks as a team, I’ll have to ask ‘What does that mean,’ or like when something should be taken more seriously, I won’t get the message and I might be telling jokes or things like that,” Xavier said.

Beyond being unfamiliar with team terminology, being a team leader right away has brought plenty of pressure with it, but Xavier isn’t worried.

He didn’t care how big people were, how fast they were, he just wanted to come in and play basketball.”

— Tolu Johnson, varsity captain

“It’s definitely a lot of pressure, I feel, but it’s not something that I can’t handle. I feel like it’s just a responsibility that I have, and it is what it is,” Xavier said. “I kinda just cope with it, I guess, and face the fact that if you want to be good, if you want to be a good leader, if you want to play in college, this just comes with it.”

It isn’t just during drills that Xavier pulls through, though. According to his teammates, the guard has become an essential member of the court.

“He’s been really consistent in his playing. He’s been getting better ever since preseason and has always been motivating all the other guys in games and practices,” Hunter said. “He’s come up big for us in some games, and everyone knows what he can do on the court.”

Xavier, too, takes pride in his abilities on the court. According to him and his teammates, once he gets warmed up, his jump shot turns red hot. According to Ben Meyer, it makes their coach “reach inner nirvana.” Or as junior Christian Grant succinctly calls it, “butter.” 

Nothing about Xavier’s game — not even his famed “jumper” — came easy, though. 

Despite an overflow of talent, it is without a doubt that Xavier has pushed himself as hard as anyone else. With two hours of practice after school, plus, depending on the amount of math homework, an extra hour of shooting jump shots, Xavier’s life has gotten extremely busy.

After the final words in their huddle, each player gets ready to begin the battle. Some freshmen may feel nervous, but on the court, Xavier feels none of it. His preparation shows. After a deep breath, Xavier gets ready to go to work.

As captain Tolu Johnson said, “He didn’t care how big people were, how fast they were, he just wanted to come in and play basketball.”