Young’s career rejuvenated by Combine and Beira

Can Young and Locomotivas shock the world?

IN October last year, Ferroviario da Beira’s Najeal Young thought his playing days had ended due to not having any takers for his services for a while. But instead of wallowing in that prospect, he zoned in on more important things until a career lifeline arrived two months later.

Young, who had played professionally in Mongolia, Mexico and Australia before experiencing a career limbo, had his playing ambition reignited in December when he received an invitation to the Basketball Africa League (BAL) Combine in Paris, France.

During the Combine in mid-January, Young did enough to convince the Locomotivas Spanish coach Luis Hernandez to sign him for their successful BAL Nile Conference campaign. There the Mozambican club qualify for the playoffs starting in Kigali, Rwanda, on Saturday.

Najeal Young shares a moment with team captain Will Perry. Pictures: Getty Images

It was not the first time Young attempted to play in the BAL. In season two of the continental competition, he got in touch with teams to try and secure a contract.

“Last year January, I emailed every team that qualified for the BAL about a roster spot. There was interest from the Congolese team (Espoir Fukash), but nothing materialised,” said Milwaukee-born Young, who spoke to The Big Tip Off on Friday.

“I later tried my luck at a couple of Combines in the (NBA) G-League, but things did not pan out. Around October of that year, I realised it was not happening, and I focused more on taking care of my kids and being around family.

“Around Christmas, I got an invite to the BAL Combine. I got into basketball mode and worked myself into shape. In Paris, I would say I performed okay and eventually got some interest from coach Luis. We had a couple of conversations about coming to Beira, we reached an agreement, and now I am here.”

Young credits the BAL Combine for reviving his career: “It helped me get back into basketball and rejuvenated my career. Honestly, I did not know if I was going to continue playing. Things were pretty much in the air. So, I am thankful to coach Luis and the Combine for giving me the opportunity to do the thing that I love the most,” said Young, who started out as a gridiron player.

The 29-year-old small forward has also taken flight in the league courtesy of the second wind his career has had. In conference play, Young, a smooth finisher at the rim, has this season led the BAL in scoring (26.1 points per game) and played an integral part in Beira qualifying for the last eight.

“I feel good and have put a lot of work into my game. When you do that, it will show on the court. I am a player who wants to win games. It’s cool to score the most points, but if we don’t win games, then it’s not the same,” said the former Caballeros de Culiacan player.


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Beira finished the Nile Conference with a 2-3 record and in the third spot to book their ticket to Kigali. Young acknowledged that the Mozambican club were in a tough group, but he was proud of how his team performed.

Also, being in Egypt, he got to fulfil one of his lifelong dreams.

“This being a new group, I knew there would be some challenges in trying to win together and what our team could do to compete on this stage. Overall, I would give us an A-plus,” said Young. “To also be in Egypt, near the pyramids… I was actively in my dream. It has always been a dream of mine to come here and see the pyramids. So, I am grateful.

“Also, getting a chance to be on that floor and underneath those lights, having Amadou (Gallo Fall), D-Wade and the fans watching our games on the sidelines and stands is a dream come true in every facet.”

Young also had his son cheering him on in Cairo. He explained that having him at the arena was a great source of motivation. 

“This why we do what we do. We play this game for our families and it’s great to have their support. Having my son on the side lines and him cheering me on was a big energy boost for me. It matters a great deal to have had him there and it was extremely fun to see him rooting for me. I also do this for my family back home I know they were watching me on TV. So, it was a great experience,” said Young.

Najeal Young felt the love of his family on and off the court.

From the start of the Nile Conference, the veteran player always believed that his team would make it to the playoff rounds. Now he and his teammates look forward to Sunday’s battle against AS Douanes of Senegal. 

“I was confident. I also had expectations of our team making it to the playoffs. We were in a strong group, with Petro (de Luanda) and Al Ahly being the top teams. I think we could have done some things better to try and beat City Oilers, but we made it,” said Young.

“I am excited about our next challenge. We are playing AS Douanes. I have studied a tape on them. They are a vibrant group, active, and they compete hard. It’s going to be a fun game and match-up. 

Finally, Young believes Beira can make a deep run in the competition and that they can turn heads while doing it.

“I feel that a fire has lit up in us. There is a bit more attention to detail from players and the coach as well. We do not just want to be in Kigali. We want to win and shock the world,” concluded Young.

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