Once foes, freshmen now Spiders teammates
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Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014

Once foes, freshmen now Spiders teammates

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- DALE BARBEE
Concord High freshmen Hamsah Nasirildeen, left, and Ty-Shon Alexander have played key roles on the Spiders varsity boys’ basketball team this season.

Only a year ago, Ty-Shon Alexander and Hamsah Nasirildeen were opposing middle school basketball players competing for the Cabarrus County eighth-grade championship.

This season, the two freshman phenoms have helped Concord High’s varsity boys’ basketball team keep its stranglehold on the South Piedmont 3A conference lead.

With a couple of weeks left in the regular season, the Spiders have charged to a 11-0 conference mark, 16-2 overall as of Jan. 31.

As a starting forward, Alexander was averaging 17 points and six rebounds per game. As one of the first two players off Concord’s bench, Nasirildeen was posting averages of six points and five rebounds.

Standing at 6-foot-3, Alexander is athletic enough to play any of the guard spots. He is also strong and mature enough to handle either of the post positions.

Alexander’s offensive repertoire ranges from an explosiveness around the basket to a solid 3-point shot. And in between, Alexander is even more of a threat, according to his coach.

“I’d say he is an old-school basketball player,” said George Walker, the Spiders’ first-year coach. “He’s dominant at 15 feet. Most kids, they’re good with either layups or 3-pointers. He’s our best player from 15 feet.”

Alexander admitted he was nervous when he played his first varsity game in November against Ardrey Kell. He said it took him all of one quarter to release the butterflies in his stomach. After all, he’s been playing prodigiously with high school players in showcase events and on AAU teams since he was in fifth grade.

By the time the Spiders opened this season, the 6-4 Nasirildeen also had experience playing with varsity players – but on a football field. He was one of the top receivers on Concord’s state 3A runner-up team last fall.

“He’s a great athlete,” Walker said. “He’s one of the hardest workers in the gym. He always tries to get better. (Football coach Glen) Padgett will tell you he’s a Division I college football player, and I’ll tell you he’s a Division I college basketball player.”

Nasirildeen plays mostly in the post. A long, quick-jumping player who plays rangy defense, Nasirildeen often adds an instant spark to the Spiders’ lineup when he enters a game.

“My role is to be a rebounder and a defender and to bring great energy to the court,” Nasirildeen said. “I think the team has responded well to it. We have a lot of good guys, so it’s an easy fit.”

With the Spiders, Alexander and Nasirildeen are complementing a talented group of experienced upperclassmen and a vibrant lot of younger players. They weren’t always friendly teammates, though.

Alexander starred two years for Concord Middle School, and Nasirildeen stood out at Northwest Cabarrus Middle, where he teamed with Lavar Batts, a remarkable freshman in his own right for Jay M. Robinson High this year.

When the players were in seventh grade, Concord Middle won the regular-season matchup, but Northwest Middle captured the conference tournament championship. Last year, the teams split regular-season games, and Northwest Middle repeated as tournament winners.

The two freshmen knew they would be playing for the varsity Spiders as early as last summer. For Nasirildeen, that meant enrolling in Concord’s International Baccalaureate program.

Alexander has been consistent all season and, at times, spectacular. On Jan. 22, he had a season-high 29 points at North Rowan in a game in which senior Connor Burchfield scored a career-high 37 points.

“I think the team is doing very well,” Alexander said. “It’s a well-coached team. We shoot the ball well. This team is fun to play with.”

Joe Habina is a freelance writer . Have a story idea for Joe? Email him at joehabina@yahoo.com.

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