The Return of Naseem
First Coast star and Florida State commit transfers back to Jacksonville
As the defending District champs, First Coast boys' basketball head coach LaTroy Strong knew he would have a talented group in 2018-2019 -- even with more than a handful of transfer additions and subtractions.
"A lot of times when you say 'moving parts,' you're adding pieces to a car, for instance. Well, the car was already running," Strong, the Buccaneers' head coach for the last five years, commented at a recent practice.
However, this car's "engine" did need to be replaced. Naseem Khaalid, the Buccaneers' starting point guard the part two seasons and the No. 39 overall prospect in ESPN's 2020 rankings, had transferred to Legacy Early College High School in his native South Carolina.
"I had to build this particular team here to play and win without Naseem," Strong said, "and so they were prepared for that, and they were ready."
But no one saw this "car's" next turn coming.
A little over a month ago, Khaalid, who never appeared in a game for Legacy this season, sent Strong a text. He was coming home to First Coast High and immediately eligible. A high ankle sprain, however, did keep Khaalid sidelined until the holiday break; so, at this writing, he has only appeared in three FHSAA games.
But by now, the cat is out of the bag.
"I mean, some teams know," Khaalid said at a recent practice. "[But now] everyone's going to be like 'oh Naseem's back in the city.'"
Even though he didn't play a full season at Legacy, Khaalid, who grew up playing alongside the likes of Duke's Zion Williamson, saw first-hand just how hard "top players" have to work. He hopes to bring that same drive and sense of purpose to his teammates at First Coast.
The Buccaneers (11-3), who began the year 3-3, travels to Andrew Jackson (10-4) Friday night.
2:38 PM EST January 11, 2019