N’Kosi Kedar Salam talks name change, school change, and NBA basketball

A sit-down with the leading scorer for SFU men’s basketball

Melissa Dimyadi / The Peak

Year: Senior

Hometown: Toronto, Ontario

Major: Education Faculty, double minor in Curriculum and Instruction and Kinesiology

Favourite NBA player of all time: Michael Jordan

N’Kosi Kedar Salam has enjoyed a fine senior season for Simon Fraser University so far this campaign. He currently leads the team with 19.1 points per game, and leads the Great Northwest Athletic Conference with 362 total points so far this season. He was named United States Basketball Writers Association’s Division II National Player of the Week earlier this year when he scored 40 points on a Thursday night game, and 27 on Saturday. This is the first time a SFU men’s basketball player has won this award. He has boosted his field goal percentage from .388 last season to .498 in this campaign, after transferring from the University of British Columbia two years ago.

The Peak: Before the season began, you switched your name from Kedar Wright to N’Kosi Kedar Salam, do you wanna talk about that?

N’Kosi Kedar Salam: Yeah. I’m of Jamaican descent. And being from Jamaica — Jamaica was colonized by the British way back when of course — they had slavery there. The people who were enslaved there were forced to have the names of their slave masters. The shift of their names I think is very significant. We see a lot of Jamaicans nowadays — especially those descended of those people — having British last names, mine being Wright, which is not of my true origin [. . .] That tradition of British names being passed down, that’s not just a last name thing, but a first name thing as well. My mother’s first name is Heather, my father’s first name is Neville, and I think they did a good job of stripping that tradition and naming me Kedar, N’Kosi. These are very strong African names, and so, I wanted to get rid of the Wright, which is the last signifier of that history, and take back my name.

P: That’s awesome. So, coming from Toronto, what made you want to play basketball on the west coast?

K: To be honest, during the recruitment process in high school, it kind of just manifested that way and I ended up at UBC, played there for a two years, [but] it wasn’t the right fit. Then I got the opportunity to play here.

P: Bit more on that. What made you make the change from UBC to SFU?

K: Like I said, it wasn’t the right fit at UBC. After I left there, I had a year of a transition period, went home and such, talked to several coaches, and it seemed like the right fit to come and try out.

P: So, looking at the stats, one of the things that really stands out is your increase in shooting percentage this year. What do you think that points to?

K: I think it points to a plethora of things. First and firstmost, last year we put together a team that was bringing in eight new guys, which was tough. So [we] were just trying to get used to playing with each other, and there’s always an adjustment period. Getting used to shots that you should or should not be taking, or just getting used to the system [we’re] playing [. . .] definitely played a role. If you looked at my stats at UBC, I was relatively efficient in both my years, so I think that dip [last year] was an indicator of [the adjustment period]. Also, I was coming off of a year where I wasn’t playing any system basketball [. . .] I think this summer especially I was able to get back into my groove and put in the work that I usually do in the summers and offseason and such, which I wasn’t able to do so much in the offseason before [coming here].

P: Another thing I’ve noticed, just this season and even in the past few weeks, is that your free throw percentage has gotten a huge boost. Is that something you really focus on, the free throw game?

K: Yeah, it definitely is. This summer I made some changes to my shot, so actually coming into this season with those new changes I had some adjusting to do and things of that nature. [. . .] Then I just got into a little bit of a groove and I think I can maintain that consistency going forward.

P: So, switching the topic to NBA now, is there an NBA player you try to model your game after?

K: Oh man, I try to steal from everybody. I try to be a student of the game — I watch a lot of basketball, overseas, NBA. I try to steal a lot from Russ[ell Westbrook], James Harden, certain point guards that were crafty in the paint like old Steve Nash. Love Kobe, I love watching [Michael] Jordan, to just get little footwork things. Yeah, I definitely steal from a plethora of people.

P: So you kind of touched on him already, Michael Jordan. Are you team Michael Jordan or team LeBron James?

K: I think it’s a debate that will never be answered. I think it’s good barbershop talk, but in my opinion I think Jordan set that standard of what it looks like to be a winner on every level, on what it looks like to be just dominant in all facets of the game. He was efficient, he was mean and he made it look good. His legacy is unmatched, and in terms of legacy I think it’s tough for LeBron to ever catch that, having gone to the finals and having lost a plethora of times. Jordan went six times, he won six times.

P: Speaking of LeBron, what do you think of the NBA finals this year? First of all, who do you think is in the NBA finals, and who do you think is winning it?

K: I think Cleveland caught a huge break, no pun intended, with Gordon Hayward going down. I think this would’ve been the year for the Celtics to break LeBron’s streak of going to the finals, especially with the emergence of Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum [. . .] Yes they [the Boston Celtics] are number one in the East, but I don’t think they’re going to be able to maintain that throughout the playoffs. I think LeBron’s going to figure it out, he’s going to go to the finals. I do think, though, that they’re going to get swept in the finals by the Warriors.

P: So, bringing it back to SFU. Who’s the funniest guy in the locker room?

K: Oh man, we got a couple jokers. I might have to say [pauses], I don’t know, man, that’s a tough one. We got a lot of jokers, man, even the quiet ones aren’t so quiet. Othniel [Spence] is pretty funny, [Michael Provenzano] can be pretty funny, Tyrell [Lewin] can be pretty funny. I think it just depends on who’s in the mood. Who’s going at the time.

Athlete’s Corner:

I do think something needs to be said about our mascot and our team name being the Clan. I’ve heard that there’s discussions about changing it in the future, but in the locker room there’s lots of jokes about it, you go on trips and people are questioning “the Clan?” And a lot of times it’s not even black people saying it, it’s white people saying it, too. I think in North America especially, with the histories that are there, what’s going on in the states right now, where I was born, in Georgetown, I know there are still Klan rallies that go on to date. With that history and things of that nature, I think it’s appropriate for a school who considers themselves to be accepting, who I think doesn’t want to have a face that discriminates against anybody, who is respectful towards Native Americans and all these different groups [to change the name]. [. . .] I’ve seen that within the courses that I’ve taken, that they would have a softness towards that aspect as well. The time for change when it comes to issues [like this] is always now, and I think something needs to be done about the “Clan” name.