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Glenbard East basketball player Alijah Nelson is the Athlete of the Week sponsored by Gracik Makinney

Alijah Nelson
Alijah Nelson

Alijah Nelson

Glenbard East



Nelson, a sophomore point guard, scored 27 points and hit six 3-pointers – five coming in the fourth quarter and overtime – with four assists, three steals and four rebounds as the Rams rallied from 18 points down in the fourth quarter to beat previously undefeated South Elgin 74-73 in overtime. Nelson is averaging 12 points, two assists and two steals per game.

Nelson, the Suburban Life Athlete of the Week sponsored by Gracik Makinney, spoke with sports editor Joshua Welge about the season. Here's an edited transcript:

Welge: What did the win mean:

Nelson: It meant a lot. It was our first conference game. Last year our conference didn't go so well. It was crucial to get that first win. When we were down we kept fighting.

Welge: Were you feeling it from the 3-point line:

Nelson: This season, I've been struggling a little bit from the 3-point line. I felt that game a big weight was lifted off my shoulder. Before the game I told myself I was just going to let myself play and have fun with it. The shots started falling.

Welge: Your team is off to a 5-2 start. What's the difference this season [Glenbard East was 3-26 last year]:

Nelson: We all get along. It's a positive environment. Even games we lose we cheer for our teammates. Last year I felt like a lot of players were thrust into tough positions. We lost so many players. Me being thrusted in as a freshman, I don't think I was ready to lead a varsity team. Now I feel better. You can see there are more smiles on people's faces.

Welge: How have you grown as a player:

Nelson: Last year, toward the end of the season teams started recognizing that I can score and it got harder and harder to get open. I felt like I had to get in the weight room. Now I feel like I have more people around me. It takes the pressure off. I've got stronger, and mostly on defense. My coaches told me Division I point guards can guard baseline to baseline. I'm trying to get better defensively to show I can get out on the floor and lock people down.

Welge: You received your first Division I offer from Chicago State in September. What was that experience like:

Nelson: I was in driver's ed and my dad got me out of class and sat me down in front of [Glenbard East] coach [Scott] Miller. There was a brief moment of silence. I asked if I was in trouble. He said 'You just received your first offer.' It put such a big smile on my face.

Welge: How has playing AAU with Team Rose helped you out:

Nelson: It helped a lot. A lot of teams didn't look at me because of my size, I was scrawny. Coach looked at me and said despite my size and build I can play basketball. When we started playing tournaments, I showed them. Without Team Rose I don't think I would get a lot of opportunities I've had.

Welge: What players do you look up to:

Nelson: Two of them. One is [ex-Maryland star] Melo Trimble. The other is [Cleveland Cavaliers guard] Isaiah Thomas. I watch him a lot. In a way he resembles me. He's a small guard, but he's in the NBA. That shows me that size doesn't matter all the time.

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