Xavier Bledson has a keen ability to recognize an opportunity and make the most of it.
That trait became abundantly clear when he was an undersized, but naturally-gifted freshman, at Gainesville High in 2015.
And after years of refining his basketball playing skills since making that game-winning shot, the former Red Elephants’ standout has found his way into a role as a burgeoning star at Division-I Indiana State.
But this is just the beginning for Bledson, who won’t rest until after he makes his dreams come true of playing in the NBA.
Every day is an exercise in maximizing every moment to see his full potential to fruition.
“If you stay ready, you don’t have to get ready,” said Bledson, who is averaging 11 points and has played about 30 minutes per game this season for the Sycamores.
Bledson can remember it like it was yesterday.
He wasn’t supposed to even be in the Gainesville lineup against Apalachee, but was pulled in when one of its standouts was benched for the region tournament.
Bledson, sensing it was his moment to shine, wasn’t about to let such a big opportunity fall by the wayside.
“I would say that was his coming-out party,” said Gainesville boys coach Chuck Graham who was an assistant coach at that time.
With only seconds left on the clock and trailing by a point, Bledson didn’t flinch.
Bledson took the pass on the left wing, maneuvered through traffic with the ball and put up a shot off the backboard at the buzzer that went in and sent the Red Elephants into the postseason.
“When it went in, everyone stormed the court,” Bledson said. “I defintely remember that game.”
Since then, Bledson has continued to grind in the gym and is a student of the game, incorporating skills from some of the best in the league into his own repertoire.
Now standing 6-feet, 6-inches tall and a chiseled 215 pounds, Bledson is seeing his hard work continually pay off.
Bledson is earning his keep in his first season at Indiana State, after spending the three years of his college career at Division-II Lincoln Memorial University.
“I’m super proud of him for what he’s doing in basketball, but even more proud of the man he’s becoming,” Graham said.
Nobody is surprised that Bledson, who his friends call ‘Jabo’, has grown into his potential.
From a young age, Bledson was a natural with the basketball in his hands.
“He had a flashy style of play, a certain flair and feel for the game,” said Graham. “(Xavier) was almost a legend by the time he was 11.”
Even though the talent was there at a young age, Bledson didn’t always look like a kid who had a future in basketball.
However, his high school growth spurt was a blessing, hitting 6-4 when he was a senior on the Red Elephants’ state finalist team in 2018.
Bledson had a difficult decision to make after the 2021 season ended for Lincoln Memorial, losing on a buzzer beater in the Division-II semifinals against West Texas A&M.
His coach at Lincoln Memorial, Josh Schertz, was slated to take the job at Indiana State.
So, Bledson went to his coach and probed about also making the jump to Division-I basketball.
They bantered back and forth about the pros and cons about making the move.
Bledson was torn, not wanting to leave his original program behind.
However, it was an opportunity that was too good to pass up on.
Plus, a chance like it may never come around again.
So in the fall of 2021, Bledson enrolled at Indiana State, making the move with his original college coach.
Right away, Bledson put his training to good use, scoring 15 points on Nov. 9 against Green Bay.
On Jan. 19, Jabo tied his season best with 21 points against Southern Illinois.
Still, success isn’t going to make Bledson complacent.
He spends every waking hour trying to hone his skills.
“I embrace it, all the hard work it takes,” Bledson said.