Najgee Gatson ’14: Athlete, Coach, and Leader

Fri, 11/22/2013 - 10:00am
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After recommendations from his basketball coach, a French teacher, and the vice principal of Our Lady of Mercy High School in Fayetteville, Ga., Najgee Gatson knew he had to visit Spring Hill College. After making the trip, meeting students, and talking to faculty, Gatson knew that SHC was the right fit for his college career.

“I had other offers to play basketball at the college level, but Spring Hill appealed to me most,” says Gatson. “The combination of getting a great Jesuit education, the overall beauty of the campus, and the opportunity to play for SHC made the decision for me.”

Since arriving on campus his freshman year, Gatson has done much more than score points and rebounds for the Badgers basketball team. He’s made significant efforts to give back to organizations on campus and in the local community. Gatson, a psychology major, volunteers his time for Habitat for Humanity, takes part in Kappa Alpha Psi service projects, and tutors students in reading at Morningside Elementary School in Mobile, Ala.

“Najgee is a driven, serious, focused student,” says Dr. Jamie Franco-Zamudio, assistant professor of psychology at Spring Hill. “I have always been impressed by his commitment to the principles of social justice, and am becoming increasingly impressed by his ability to apply social psychology principles to real-world problems.”

Most recently, Gatson is rounding out his off-campus time by leading a multi-faceted project at The Little Tree preschool in Mobile. The Little Tree provides education for traditional students and those on the autistic spectrum, ages 2 to 4.

“My classmates and I are producing a promotional video for the school, as well as revising a staff and volunteer training manual,” says Gatson. “The Little Tree has so much to offer and a lot of local families don’t know about the programs. The video is something very positive we can do to help spread the word.”

Dr. Franco-Zamudio adds that Gatson’s team is especially enthusiastic and resourceful. “His peers credit his leadership for their success. In fact, one student sent me a message stating that she is truly enjoying her team project because of Najgee's follow-through and clear direction.” 

That same tenacity and dedication landed Gatson an offer to serve as assistant director of Timberlake Camp’s basketball program this past summer. The camp, located in Shandaken, N.Y., gave Gatson a chance to hone his coaching skills, working with 6- to 15-year-olds in the sport he loves.

“After finishing school, it’s my goal to coach basketball at the college level,” says Gatson. “So, the chance to be on the court with kids all summer—helping each of them develop individual talents and ways to work together as a team—was a great experience. The camp has already asked me to come back.”

Spring Hill men’s head basketball coach Aaron Nevin says that Gatson is capable of doing whatever he sets his mind to. “He is a bright, articulate young man with a good personality that will allow him to develop the relationships that are so important in this business,” says Nevin.

Before embarking on his own coaching career, Gatson will complete his graduate degree at Spring Hill. This fall, he’ll enjoy his fourth year playing for the Badgers while beginning his master’s program in liberal arts with a concentration in leadership studies.

“I can't say enough about Najgee's potential as a leader and future professional,” adds Dr. Franco-Zamudio. “I was pleased to hear that he chose SHC for graduate school and am looking forward to collaborating with him in the future.”