It was a warm Monday evening in the middle of June, and Saddiq Bey, spiky hair extending his 6-foot-8 frame, strode to the middle of the court with a smile spread across his face.
“Who is this kid?” a local high school assistant coach asked from the stands as Bey prepared for the jump ball.
“You haven’t seen Saddiq Bey play?” answered a recruiter for an area AAU team. “Oh, man, just watch.”
This is exactly how Bey wants it, for people to know him after they have seen him play. No hollow hype. No off-court trouble. No noise. Coaches describe the Sidwell Friends senior as “really cerebral.” The Largo, Maryland, native prefers to observe and listen, and he speaks in a deep, quiet voice if he has something important to say. He joined Twitter in July 2016 but has tweeted just 29 times, a remarkably low number in a recruiting era that has turned social media into a self-promotion platform.
On Thursday night, Bey announced his commitment to North Carolina State, choosing the Wolfpack over Xavier, Miami, Pittsburgh and several other programs. He did so at Kettering Middle School in Upper Marlboro, where he once played in Boys & Girls Club games and dreamed of a future in basketball. Making his decision in a packed high school gym didn’t feel right. Neither did a produced Twitter video. Bey would have been satisfied simply calling N.C. State Coach Kevin Keatts, firming up his commitment and then escaping to a quiet gym to fire jumpers.
But he also wanted to share a special moment with his family, Sidwell Friends Coach Eric Singletary and the teammates and friends who watched him grow from a 5-9 guard into a versatile recruit. He is the seventh area player to commit to a high-major school, joining Gonzaga guards Myles Dread (Penn State) and Prentiss Hubb (Notre Dame), Rock Creek Christian forward Jermaine Harris (Rhode Island), Paul VI guard Brandon Slater (Villanova), O’Connell point guard Xavier Johnson (Nebraska) and St. Mary’s Ryken guard Wynston Tabbs (Boston College).
“Saddiq is a quiet kid who plays really, really loudly,” Singletary said. “It’s so awesome to see how much he has grown, literally in height and as a basketball player and young man. He’s continuing the great tradition at Sidwell.”
That tradition already included Los Angeles Lakers rookie guard Josh Hart — who won a national championship at Villanova and was selected 30th in the NBA draft in June — as well as former University of Pennsylvania guard Jamal Lewis and current Penn freshman guard Jelani Williams.
But Bey was not always pegged to be a Division I player. He got to Sidwell Friends as an undersized guard with a good jumper, then grew 10 inches across his first three years of high school. He averaged 14.2 points as a junior last season and led the Quakers to a Mid-Atlantic Athletic Conference championship after Williams tore his ACL in December.
At the end of the high school season, he had offers from Pennsylvania, Temple, Elon, Rhode Island and Towson. In April, he shined on the AAU circuit with D.C. Premier and was soon offered by N.C. State, Pittsburgh, Miami, Northwestern, Rutgers, Georgetown, Notre Dame, Florida and a host of other schools. He was a long forward who could handle the ball, sink threes and defend any player on the opposing team. His height allowed him to comfortably take contested shots. His feel for the game told him not to force them.
And then, with a summer of showcases ahead, he was solidified as a high-major recruit.
“I hit a stride then, and I just got the confidence that I really belonged playing with top players,” Bey said of the two live evaluation periods in April. “That was motivation to just keep getting better. Once those offers started coming, I just wanted to keep improving and validate that I was deserving of them.”
In mid-August, Bey announced a final six of N.C. State, Miami, Xavier, Pittsburgh, Northwestern and Princeton. He then took official visits to Pittsburgh, Xavier, Northwestern and, finally, N.C. State in Raleigh at the start of October. Pittsburgh Coach Kevin Stallings visited Bey a few weeks after his trip to campus. He said Xavier was “really up there” while making his final decision and that he was still considering all six schools this week.
But Bey felt a connection with the new N.C. State staff and assistant A.W. Hamilton, his main recruiter. Bey likes the team’s free-flowing offense, in which he sees himself contributing on the perimeter and inside. He also saw an opportunity for him to earn playing time as a freshman and was drawn to the campus atmosphere during his visit.
“I don’t want to say it was pressure, because it’s a great thing to have options, but everyone asks you, ‘Where are you going? Where are you going?’ ” Bey said. “And now I can tell them, and it feels like a sort of weight has been lifted off my shoulders.”
On that June day, with a local coach watching him for the first time, Bey paced the Quakers in an eventual loss to DeMatha. He snatched rebounds and initiated the fast break. He hit a few off-the-dribble threes. In the second half, he crossed right and spun left, shedding a defender before flicking a lefty floater past 7-foot center Hunter Dickinson.
“Man, where is he playing in college?” asked the assistant, who needed just 32 minutes of basketball to learn a lot about Saddiq Bey.
Four and a half months later, the answer is N.C. State.
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