Sean Bair remembers when he first met New Oxford senior Abdul Janneh and how much Janneh has matured in the subsequent years.
“The growth of his game from a 13-year-old scrawny, defense-first athlete to a polished Swiss Army knife has been remarkable,” the former Colonial boys basketball head coach said via text. “His high school basketball career has been symbiotic of the human experience that we are all living every day.”
Bair knew he had a special athlete on his hands, he just didn’t know how good of a basketball player that Janneh would become.
Janneh was a rotation player as a freshman, seeing action in all but one of the Colonials’ games that season and scoring 2.5 ppg.
He moved into the starting lineup as a sophomore and provided a good secondary scoring option to senior John Wessel. Janneh put in 10.3 ppg, while leading the team in rebounding and contributing solid defense all over the floor.
As a junior, Janneh became a team leader and pushed his average to 15.6 ppg. This season, he’s duplicating last year’s average and has helped the team to a 12-3 record overall, 7-2 in YAIAA-1 play.
From that scrawny 13-year-old, Janneh has blossomed into a sturdy 6-foot-3, 180-pound athlete capable of defending just about anyone he may be assigned to.
“The highs of beating state-ranked teams and scoring 20-plus points against high-level competition to the lows of missing game-winning shots and fouling out, the raw emotion that spilled onto the court from unabashedly caring so much about basketball and his teammates,” Bair said. “Those experiences are all incredibly human and have all been an absolute joy to witness.”
Janneh recently became the seventh boy in New Oxford school history to reach the 1,000-point milestone for his career and currently sits in fifth place with 1,032.
It’s obvious to anyone that’s seen him compete in basketball, football or track that Janneh is a supremely gifted and talented athlete. What folks may not be aware of is that he’s also a great person who is respected by his peers and coaches.
“Abdul has a great sense of humor and he’s just fun to be around,” current Ox head coach Nathan Myers said. “Him and Brayden (Long) are our leaders and everybody follows their lead.”
The chemistry is evident in and out of competition between Janneh and Long, who have been playing sports together since both were in the third grade.
Long, who finished his football career as the all-time leader in the Times Area with 6,622 passing yards and tied for the record for touchdown passes with 67, has Janneh to thank for helping him to reach those heights.
A wide receiver and safety on the gridiron, Janneh was selected to the first team on both sides of the ball by the YAIAA-1 coaches after leading the entire YAIAA in receptions (57) and receiving yards (1,072) and scoring 14 total touchdowns in 2019. He was also named second team all-state at wide out in Class 5A by PA Football News.
His receiving yards total this past season were the second-highest in the Times Area since 1997, trailing only Gettysburg’s Terrill Barnes, who posted 1,226 in 2005. His reception total is the fifth-highest in the past 23 years.
“Abdul and I have great chemistry and it carries over from sport to sport,” Long said. “He’s fun to be around and he always takes care of his responsibilities on and off the court. He’s just a great friend and great to talk to and be around.”
Janneh missed his sophomore year of football due to a knee injury that had him contemplating whether or not to give up the sport to focus solely on the hardwood. He decided to return to football as a junior and had 29 catches for 465 yards and 11 total touchdowns.
“Originally, I was just going to put all my focus on basketball,” Janneh said. “But then I fell back in love with football when I got back out there and played as a junior.”
His exploits and accomplishments on the football field have led to scholarship offers from Slippery Rock University, Clarion University and Seton Hill University, all Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference institutions. He’s also received interest from other PSAC schools, along with Duquesne University.
Janneh plans to major in criminal justice with a minor in cyber security.
“Athletically, you have an all-state football player, a 1,000-point scorer in basketball and a kid that has been within an inch of qualifying for states in the triple jump,” Bair said. “Academically, he’s never shied away from challenging classes and knows how to ask the right questions. Then socially, you have the homecoming king, who has been elected to student council executive board, played a few years in the band, works part time and just radiates positivity to the people lucky enough to be around him.
“That blend of qualities should forever be celebrated even beyond the 1,000 points.”
Follow Tom Sixeas on Twitter at @TomSixeas