By Joseph Santoliquito
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — One of the Dallas Mavericks’ trainers wanted to know if Jameer Nelson had worked up a good sweat before the former Chester High and St. Joe’s star was going to take on the Sixers Saturday night at the Wells Fargo Center.
Nelson, now a member of the Mavs after spending 10 years with the Orlando Magic, just looked down at his drenched dark grey shooting jersey, looked up at the trainer, and they both laughed.
Nelson has been nursing a bad back and was questionable for the Mavs. But something had been pressing Nelson more than the back. Saturday night would be the first time he would be playing without a familiar pair of eyes on him that have followed him since he began making a name for himself as a star at Chester High.
Long-time legendary Chester High basketball coach Fred Pickett died after a long battle with cancer on Oct. 29. Pickett was an inspiration to everyone he ever came in contact with, and was a huge reason why Nelson evolved into a high school star, a national star at St. Joe’s and a NBA veteran.
Nelson, 32, was also hearing from Pickett, always imploring more form him. That demand made Nelson demand more of himself—and in turn made him the star he would eventually become.
When Nelson would visit the Wells Fargo Center when he was playing for the Magic, Pickett never missed a game, if it didn’t conflict with a Clippers’ game.
Saturday night was different. Pickett wasn’t there—and Nelson felt it.
“I come back every summer and it was important to be committed to Chester and to see Fred,” Nelson said. “It’s important for me to give back, because so many gave to me, like Fred Pickett, the Pearsalls, Larry Yarbray, and paved the way for me. It’s in my mind that Fred is still there. I was fortunate to have Fred on my life. He’s always going to be there.”
Nelson said the strain of an NBA season is still there, but he’s able to endure it. He’s battled the back this season, but reassures everyone from Chester and all of the St. Joe’s faithful that one of the greatest to ever wear those uniforms still has a little something left.
“I still have a lot left in my tank,” said Nelson, correcting an inquisitor. “I still have some basketball in me. I’m not close to retiring. I have a great situation here in Dallas. I want to win an NBA title and this is a great chance to be a part of this team, with a star like Dirk [Nowitzki].
“I can still hear Fred. He was always hard on me. He always encouraged me. It made me a better player. I have him in my heart each time I play.”
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