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Plymouth Whitemarsh senior Naheem McLeod chooses Florida State

Plymouth Whitemarsh senior Naheem McLeod (seated center) poses with Guardian Michele Whiting and his mother Asha Adams, and standing Plymouth Whitemarsh head coach Jim Donofrio and Guardian Byron Whiting on Monday, Nov. 19, 2018. (Gene Walsh/Digital First Media)

WHITEMARSH >> Plymouth Whitemarsh senior Naheem McLeod announced his decision to continue his education and basketball career at Florida State University Monday night at Plymouth Whitemarsh High School.

He narrowed his options down to three schools — Florida State, Rhode Island and La Salle. The final decision was between the first two schools.

“It was back-and-forth between Rhode Island and Florida State,” McLeod said. “I was like, ‘Alright, this is going to be Florida State.’ I like what they did with the 7-4 guy they have now (senior Christ Koumadje). I feel like I can be better than he was, but we’re going to work.

“The atmosphere,” the 7-foot-3 center added of what separated the Seminoles. “I want to thank all the coaches that recruited me. Florida State had the best plan for me and I felt like it was the best decision.”

The plan for McLeod?

“Come in, learn, work,” he said. “Minimum two years. Try to go pro.”

McLeod, who has been in touch with Florida State for about three months, knew what he wanted during the recruiting process.

“A team that wins,” he said, listing his top priorities, “a great coaching staff and a program that believes in me.”

He is entering his third season as a starter. He earned First Team All Suburban One League American Conference honors as a junior while leading the Colonials to a 28-2 season. He was a bench player for most of his freshman year, but played a key role in PW’s District 1 championship win over Chester.

Plymouth Whitemarsh head coach Jim Donofrio talked about McLeod on the floor and off of it.

“He’s a big personality,” he said. “It’s one of those fun stories. We’ve been together for the whole time. He’s a very unique, very genuine kid. The most big-hearted kid and just fun-loving kid in the world who has come in here as a freshman and academically just had to learn how to work at it and still is. It’s just a fun story. It’s even bigger than basketball because he is literally a great example of how talented people are if you just stay with them. He’s just really growing up and he trusts like crazy. He just wants to have fun. He has an incredible work ethic, but every time I talk about Nah, I don’t even care to talk about basketball. He shares himself with the world and it’s fun.

“We’ve had the chance to know some great kids and some great talents. You don’t get a lot of this in high school — you do with the right guy, but (McLeod) — he’s probably the most popular guy I’ve ever seen among kids. The kids just love him. Little kids come to our clinics just to run around with him. He’s a big kid.”

Plymouth Whitemarsh head boys basketball coach Jim Donofrio hugs Naheem McLeod after McLeod’s announcement to attend Florida State on Monday, November 19, 2018. (Gene Walsh/Digital First Media)

McLeod joins a list of Colonials under Donofrio to play high-level college basketball. Chuck Moore (1997 graduate) went to Vanderbilt, John Salmons (1998) Miami, CJ Aiken (2010) St. Joseph’s and Jaylen Bond (2011) Texas.

“CJ Aiken is playing professionally and was the player of the year in the Philippines last year,” Donofrio said. “Jaylen Bond is in Dubai. Ronald Moore (2006 grad) is seven or eight years in Italy. That’s something to be really proud of — guys making money in the game. Any school would be proud to have one guy making money in the game. It’s fun to watch how the game has evolved to the world and these guys can chase it.

“Nah’s goal should be the biggest stage … He can play at any level.”

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