Naheem McLeod’s path to Florida State was delayed but his route through junior college has clearly helped his development.
McLeod took a redshirt when he arrived at Chipola College in 2019-20 and then the start of this season was delayed until January due to the pandemic. The 7-foot-3, 225-pound McLeod hasn’t been dominant but he has been efficient, averaging 6 points on 73 percent shooting from the floor and pulling down 3.9 rebounds. He’s playing 16 minutes per game going into Chipola’s opener against Shelton State (Ala.) in the junior college national tournament in Kansas on Wednesday at 9 p.m.
“I think the biggest thing basketball-wise is he can catch the ball on the move, so when guys are setting pick and rolls and he’s rolling hard, sometimes those passes aren’t perfect passes, aren’t on time, maybe a little bit behind him,” Chipola coach Donnie Tyndall told the Osceola. “He’s a guy that shows he’s got good hands and can catch in traffic and for the most part done a pretty good job finishing.”
McLeod’s production has picked up as the season progressed, showing his comfort against tougher competition. He’s averaging 7.7 points in March and April, helping Chipola make a run to the FCSAA state title, and McLeod is a presence on the defensive end, too. He blocks 1.4 shots per game and uses his height and wingspan to alter shots.
“He’s had a few games this year where he’s blocked two or three shots,” Tyndall said. “I’d like him to block more shots than he does. I think he does definitely change some shots around the goal that maybe he doesn’t block but still impacts the game by changing and challenging those shots. His size at our level is pretty impactful. At the Division I level, I think he’s going to have to become a better shot blocker because he’s probably not going to change and challenge quite as many as he does at this level.”
Tyndall says McLeod has done well in the classroom and sees him as on track to graduate and enroll at FSU this summer. Among the qualities Tyndall likes in McLeod are his attitude and coachability.
“He likes to laugh and cut up,” Tyndall said. “He’s got a great way about him. He’s a great teammate. He’s always encouraging guys. If you challenge him and get on him he can handle it. You can be direct with him and coach him. He’s gonna be receptive to that. He’s been been a joy to coach in that regard.”
That’s good news for FSU’s coaches, who will be seeking to develop 7-footers this fall ahead of the 2021-22 season after Balsa Koprivica’s early departure for the NBA Draft.