Relaxation is important to Zach Naylor. The more relaxed he is, the better he plays.
That played a big part in his decision to sign a letter-of-intent to play basketball for the University of Mississippi next season after he wraps up his career at Weatherford College.
“When I took my visit everyone was so welcoming, and right away it just felt like home,” said the sophomore from Sugar Land. “Being in junior college two years only leaves me two years to play at the (NCAA) D-I level, so I want to go someplace where I’m relaxed immediately.”
Which is also how he felt when he signed with Weatherford College.
“It is like when I came here. It helped here, though, because I also had friends coming,” he said.
Naylor is part of the “Sugar Land Five,” a handful of freshmen from the Fort Bend School District who competed against each other in high school and whom head coach Mark Osina opted to make his starting lineup late last season—and again this season.
“I think we’re going to be really good this year,” Naylor said. “Now that we’re two years in, we’re locked and loaded.”
Osina said Naylor has all the tools to be successful at the highest level of college basketball in one of the nation’s toughest conferences.
“Zach is definitely a D-I player with the skills that he will need at that level,” Osina said. “He can play with the best players in the country, and that conference is known for great forwards.”
Naylor said he plans to study communications or criminal justice at Ole Miss, the latter because “I like making people feel safe. There’s some scary stuff going on, and, wherever I’m placed in life, I want to make a difference.”
Naylor said he also chose Ole Miss because a degree from the heralded institution can go a long way in one’s career.
“It’s bigger than just basketball there,” he said. “They have this belief, everyone who comes to Ole Miss is leaving with a degree.”
And, of course, he’d love to play professional basketball. Naylor was a football player, and a good one, before falling in love with basketball in the eighth grade.
“In high school I knew this was what I wanted to do for as long as I can,” he said. “There’s a lot of great players who came through Fort Bend and went on to play at some great colleges and even the NBA, like the Harrison twins.”
Aaron and Andrew Harrison played at Kentucky. Andrew now plays for the Memphis Grizzlies in the NBA and Aaron plays for the Reno Bighorns of the NBA G League, having previously played for the Charlotte Hornets of the NBA.
“Honestly, I can’t wait,” Naylor said. “This is all I ever wanted, playing on the big stage.”