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Fels senior finds inspiration in the bleachers

After two years at Lincoln, Naeem Colston grew into a team leader at Fels. PHOTO: @jamvisuals

Naeem Colston doesn’t need to look far for motivation.

He always has it in the stands.

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Colston is a senior swingman on the Samuel Fels High School basketball team, and he’s responsible for a lot for the Panthers, who are now coached by former Lincoln coach Jamel Lindsey. 

And while the Panthers rely heavily on Colston’s contributions, he relies just as much on the face in the crowd that keeps him motivated.

“My grandmother is always here for me, 100 percent,” Colston said of his biggest supporter. “She’s at every game, telling me what I need to do and how I need to do it. She’s given me the mindset that I can do everything. She plays a huge role. She got into basketball when I was growing up with me and my brother started playing. She knows what she’s talking about, too, most of the time. She knows the game.

“She tells me the truth. Every parent isn’t going to do that, they won’t always give you bad news. She tells me what I need to fix, how to better myself. After the game, I know she’s going to be there. It gives me the energy and the motor to never give up. She wasn’t an athlete, but she played some sports. Her mom didn’t let her too much. But she’s always with us now and she’s a big reason for what I do.”

Colston’s grandmom must be the perfect role model because at Fels, Colston is the perfect player to lead the Panthers.

A native of North Philadelphia, Colston began his high school career at Lincoln before coming to Fels prior to his junior season.

Since getting there, he’s worked hard to become the player Lindsey can rely on to lead the squad. And with Colston being that guy, the Panthers enjoyed a solid season, going 13-6, including 11-1 in Public League play.

He did his part when it comes to playing, leading the team at guard while seeing some time at forward. A capable scorer, Colston felt his job was to help his teammates get better, so that was mostly his focus.

“My role is get teammates open shots, move the ball, and when the opportunity is there, attack the rim,” Colston said. “It doesn’t matter to me, I like playing on the ball and off the ball. I like off the ball more, it opens me up to score more. When I have the ball, I look to get it to my teammates involved, but I can score. I do what’s there.”

What he does with the ball is just one thing he does to help the Panthers.

What he does with the team was another huge part of what he brings to the table.

Colston admits when he was at Lincoln, he had a lot to learn. A huge part of that learning curve was developing into a player who can make everyone around him better, not just with his actions, but his words.

While at Lincoln, he worked with older players who helped turn him from a talented player into a great player who can be the leader of a high school basketball squad.

“I just lead by example, keep everyone on the right path,” Colston said. “You know, make sure everyone’s head is in the game. It started from I looked up to my older peers and I started leading by 11th grade. That was the role I had to play on my upcoming senior year.

“I had a lot of help from my peers. The guys at Lincoln, the older guys. They helped me, they guided me along the way. Teaching me new things, what I had to do and better myself on and off the court. I adapted quickly, they helped me build confidence in everything I do. I still talk to them. They understood why I left Lincoln and were happy for me. They’re very happy for me.”

He also credits his coach for giving him a push in the right direction. 

In fact, his coach taught him a very valuable lesson about basketball.

Defense is paramount.

“I love playing for him because he taught me a lot, especially defense,” Colston said. “He loves to play defense. I’m a good defender, maybe a great defender. I help the younger guys with that. I take pride in it. I’ve always did it, but my older peers were locked in. They gave me the courage to lock in. Now the whole team does it. Our defense is great. We’re all hungry and we all want to win. We all lock in. That’s our focus. We get that from him.

“Coach is there for me. He lets us hoop. We have fun. He’s really disciplined and I think everyone is getting mature off of him. He’s a good role model to the kids.”

Now Colston is thinking about his future.

He wants to play basketball. He also has an eye for real estate.

Any college that come a callin’, they’ll be getting a sweet deal.

“They’re getting a leader,” Colston said. “I always want to learn. I can learn. I’m really focused, I bring energy and I’m always locked in. I do well in school, that’s important to me, I try to do better all the time. 

“I’m also a nice guy. I think I look mean because I’m big and my face, but I’m not mean. I’m nice. People say I look mean, but I’m a good person and I like people. That’s just my expression.”

And wherever he ends up, you won’t just get a player, you’ll get a great fan.

“She’s excited for me,” Colston said of his grandmom. “She’s always there for me.”

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