Basketball powerhouse takes talents to East St. John

Published 11:03 am Wednesday, August 16, 2023

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RESERVE — Sa’Naijah Nelson of LaPlace has one goal in mind as she begins her freshman year at East St. John: graduate with a Division I basketball scholarship in hand.

Coming off of an outstanding eighth grade season at Harry Hurst Middle School, Sa’Naijah turned heads with her decision to take her basketball talents to East St. John rather than moving on to Destrehan High School as expected. While trading maroon for black and gold meant leaving friends and a highly sought-after school district behind, Sa’Naijah assured her family this new setting will afford her great opportunities for the future.

Sa’Naijah’s loved ones have no doubt that she will earn a spot at a signing day table within the next four years. The 14-year-old is currently on the Louisiana Girls Ranking watchlist for the Class of 2027 and following a standout performance at last year’s Fab 50, and there are more accomplishments on the horizon. This Saturday, she will be vying for another golden ticket to the 2023 Fab 50 event scheduled for September.

Sa’Naijah’s mother, Bradlynn Green-Wilkens, watched from the stands as her daughter started in several games for East St. John over the summer.

“She kind of grew up. She decided that she wanted her main focus to be basketball,” Green-Wilkens said. “She felt that if she went to Destrehan with the kids she was coming from Harry Hurst with, she didn’t know how well she would be able to control her joking and playing around. At East St. John, she can focus on her schoolwork and basketball and having a chance to get a D1 scholarship.”
Sa’Naijah was also inspired to follow in the footsteps of 2023 East St. John valedictorian Kyla Cage, who secured a basketball scholarship to Xavier. Sa’Naijah and Kyla have both trained under Coach Joseph Mitchell of Nola Rise Academy to sharpen their skills on the court. East St. John was also home to Jermani Thompson, a high school and college basketball standout who tragically passed away in 2022. During last year’s Fab 50, Sa’Naijah wore a special shirt dedicated to Jermani as a good luck token.

Sa’Naijah is also no stranger to East St. John Coach Stasha James, who first took note of her when she played on the United AAU team at Basketball on the Bayou in New Orleans.

“We love the program Coach James runs,” Green-Wilkens said. “All of her players have a 3.0 GPA or better. They are a sisterhood.”