The Suburban One Conference, located in the suburbs north of Philadelphia, is home to some of the best sports competition in Pennsylvania, especially basketball. Two programs have dominated this aspect for several years, Abington High School and Plymouth Whitemarsh High School. Eric Dixon from Abington and Naheem McLeod from PW are just two of the biggest names in PA high school basketball. Eric is a 6’7″, 275lb #2 ranked recruit in the state headed to local Villanova University under Jay Wright. Naheem is measured at 7 feet 4 inches. Yeah, you heard that right. McLeod will be headed to Florida State University to join the Seminoles this season. I was able to sit down with these two recruits and talk about their careers, and what lies ahead of them going forward.
Jack: So first off, early in the season this year, you guys faced off against each other in one of the most hyped games this year in PA. What was that game like going against each other since really there was nobody in SOL that compared to either of your sizes?
Naheem: It’s a wonderful challenge to play against Eric because you know he is a very talented guy and you can’t afford to take a play off against him. We never beat Abington while he was there, so that was one of our goals. Also, we know that he was a big name going to Villanova, and I have a name going to FSU, and we wanted to give the fans what they wanted. Also, Eric is like a brother to me, and I respect that guy; I know all his moves and it’s just so hard to stop.
Eric: It’s always fun to play Naheem. He always brings the best out in me as a player, and the communities always look forward to the games.
Jack: So Naheem, you’re going to Florida State University, and Eric, you’re going to Villanova. What major things impacted each of your college decisions?
Naheem: For me, it was all about where I was comfortable, and the coaches really believe in me at FSU.
Naheem McLeod announces his decision. pic.twitter.com/4sAih02ivn
— Ed Morlock (@emor09) November 20, 2018
Eric: I chose Villanova because of the great culture they’ve created there. They can also help me become a more disciplined and focused man.
Jack: So what excites you guys the most about the programs you are going to?
Eric: The attention to detail within the program is insane. Also how they make every minute count. I really feel like their structure can help me in life.
Villanova commit Eric Dixon (@BigEballer_) is a pro pic.twitter.com/qNmbjorFlg
— Basketball Finders (@BBallFinders) April 4, 2019
Naheem: Same, also the conference for me in the ACC is insane because we play Duke, Wake Forest, North Carolina, and many more.
Jack: That leads right into my next question. Naheem, now I know when you were younger you were a big Duke fan, hence your nickname the Big Duke. The ACC is one of the best conferences in college basketball. Which ACC team are you the most excited to go up against?
Naheem: I say Duke because I love and respect Coach K. He’s the best coach to ever coach in my eyes, and North Carolina because they have a lot of talent coming in and those teams are usually pretty good. Louisville also because I know a lot of people that go there, and I went to the ACC because I want to show my talent and show that I can compete with the best kids and teams in the country.
Jack: Eric, having been an unusual size for a high school power forward, being much larger at 6’7″ 275, how do you feel that will translate to Villanova, and which NBA player do you feel best exemplifies how you play?
From FLOOR-point range ? #SCtop10 (via @ChrisKretschman) pic.twitter.com/0fkVhcbcqJ
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) February 20, 2019
Eric: I feel like it will translate well because I’m used to my position. I try to model game somewhere between Zach Randolph, Lamarcus Aldridge, and Draymond Green
Jack: Having seen some of your games in person, the opposing crowds can sometimes be quite harsh, hurling insults left and right. Have you ever channeled that into your success on the court?
Eric: I don’t let it affect me. It’s rare that I even understand what they’re saying. I’m locked in to my task at hand.
Naheem: Yeah, you know I’m pretty sure we don’t listen or hear what the fans say because we are too busy competing against each other and trying to win. But if you got haters, I feel as if it pushes you to work harder and become a better player.
Jack: Naheem, at 7 foot 4, there are only eight players in NBA history taller than you. How does that size affect your game and your everyday life?
Naheem McLeod puts down a two-handed slam. pic.twitter.com/ptvSaUUl0N
— Owen McCue (@Owen_McCue) October 14, 2018
Naheem: When I play, most players think I’m soft, so they try to go right at me, and I love playing defense. It’s something I really enjoy until you play somebody like an Eric Dixon who is shorter than you, has more weight than you, and can score and put you in foul trouble at will. So it’s kinda a catch-22. The everyday life part is weird because you gotta order things in advance. Most stores have things that I need, it just may not be long enough for me.
Jack: Who do you guys thank the most for being where you are today?
Eric: I thank my family first and foremost. They’ve given me much more than I could ever pay them back for, so when I get the chance to thank them, I do. I also thank my coaches that have helped me along the way. Mostly Coach Donovan, Coach Skip, and Coach Grasty, but there are others who’ve helped. I’m also thankful for the community I’m from. I’ve learned many things about how to carry myself and how to treat people from everybody here, and the support I receive is unbelievable.
Naheem: I want to thank my mom, of course. Being a single mother and raising six kids isn’t easy. She always made sure we had everything we needed before herself. I want to thank Coach Rub and Chris, my AAU coach, for allowing me to play with them and believing in me and helping me get to where I am today. I also want to thank my high school coach Jim Donfrio for allowing me to take over his high school team and become a leader.
Jack: Do you guys have anything to say to the young ball players that look up to you guys?
Naheem: Chase ya dream and never give up. If you asked me 3-4 years ago if thought I would be the player I am today, I would tell you, “Not a chance in the world.” I didn’t know what the difference was between Division 1, Division 2, and Division 3. I never would have pictured me going to a college for free. I am extremely blessed, and although sometimes the path you take may be [a] struggle, you can’t give up. Follow God’s plan.
Eric: Stay dedicated to the grind and stay out the way. If you work hard now, there’s a lot of fun to be had later.
Jack: Last question, what are your guys’ goals in college?
Naheem: Just to win and play in the tournament. If you’re lucky enough to win the whole thing, then get drafted ??.
Eric: Do a lot of winning, and let the rest handle itself.
We at the Blue Route would like to thank these guys again and wish them the best of luck going forward.
Eric’s Instagram: @cantguardric
Naheem’s Instagram: @d1.nah_10