Mar 24, 2023; Louisville, KY, USA; San Diego State Aztecs forward Jaedon LeDee (13) reacts after a play during the first half of the NCAA tournament round of sixteen against the Alabama Crimson Tide at KFC YUM! Center. Mandatory Credit: Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports
For Houston native Jaedon LeDee of San Diego State, the Final Four is more than just a homecoming
Back in April of 2011, Jaedon LeDee couldn’t have been more thrilled with what he was about to experience.
He was an 11-year-old boy that had just gotten to leave school early and was headed toward what was then known as Reliant Stadium to watch college basketball’s best practice and prepare for the Final Four.
While as a fifth grader, his focus would sometimes be less on hoops and more on getting to his uncle’s suite for some food, the embers of what would eventually grow into a raging fire of love for basketball were already beginning to spark.
“He was so excited about it,” said Sherri LeDee, Jaedon’s mother.
Fast forward 12 years later, and Jaedon is back in the city’s pro football stadium, now named NRG Stadium, for the Final Four. This time, however, he is not in Houston as a spectator but as a participant with San Diego State.
Jaedon’s journey back to NRG Stadium was filled with lots of turns and stops.
His first stop came just a few years after the 2011 Final Four that featured VCU, Kentucky, Butler, and Connecticut.
As an eighth grader, Jaedon put an end to dabbling with football and focused on playing solely basketball, Sherri said. He then went to the Kinkaid School, where he built a name for himself as a basketball player, which allowed him to play Division I college basketball.
Jaedon’s first stop in college wasn’t San Diego State, however. It was actually with Ohio State. And after one season, he was on the move again. This time to Texas Christian until the 2020-21 season before he finally made the move to the Aztecs and sat out last season as a redshirt due to NCAA transfer rules.
“That kid that left Kinkaid, he was still wet behind the ears a little bit,” Jaedon said. “When you leave high school, at least from my experience, you really don’t know about life yet. In this college journey I’ve done had until now, man, I’ve learned a lot about life.
“I kind of took some punches, punched a little back, but I am here. Like I said, God is good, and like I said, I am going to just keep going,” he added.
Jaedon has done a little bit of everything for the Aztecs on their Final Four journey. He is averaging 7.8 points and 5.3 rebounds for San Diego State this season.
During the team’s Sweet Sixteen matchup against one-seeded Alabama, he put together 12 points and six rebounds to help dethrone the Crimson Tide. While statistically, Jaedon’s numbers may not be eye-grabbing and flashy, his role has been a vital one for the Aztecs.
“Before the season started, anybody asked me how you’re going to be this year, I said we’re going to be really good, and I said that because of Jaedon LeDee,” San Diego State head coach Brian Dutcher said. “I watched him. He wanted to sit a year. He wanted a sit-out year. I watched him in practice every day, how dominant he was.
“I just felt he was the missing piece to us being really, really good,” Dutcher added.
When San Diego State takes the floor against Florida Atlantic on Saturday evening in the first of the two Final Four outings, Jaedon will be right at home.
He’s not sure exactly how many relatives and friends will be in attendance for his game, but he knows it will be a lot. There will be high school friends, family members, close friends, and a lot of people around Houston and even San Diego family cheering him on, Sherri said.
For Jaedon, once the ball is tipped in the air and the game begins against FAU, all of the spectacles of the Final Four will be put in the rearview mirror.
“At the end of the day, it is a business trip,” Jaedon said. “I am only here because we have been taking care of business.”
As such, not much will change when it comes to the pregame customs Jaedon and his family have created throughout the year.
Sherri will send her son the same message before the game.
“Go be you Jae LeDee.”
Jaedon’s little brother, Kyrie, will send him his own message too.
“Be me, be aggressive. Don’t let them push you around.”
Kyrie is 11 years old, just like his brother Jaedon was during the Final Four in 2011.
Regardless of the outcome of Saturday’s game, Jaedon’s return to Houston with San Diego State has already provided a full-circle moment for the LeDee family they will cherish for a lifetime.
“I am overjoyed,” Sherri said. “I mean, it is just being beyond proud at this moment for him to be here No. 1 back in Houston, playing in Houston, he hadn’t played here since high school, so that is awesome, and then [also being] on the biggest stage of college basketball. It is just unbelievable. I’m loving it.”