Featured Athlete: Nai Carlisle

Nai Carlisle uses age to his advantage.

When Nai Carlisle ’16 stepped onto the court for the first time in a Red Devil uniform he was about to play in front of a crowd for the first time in his life.  And he would have to do it as the varsity’s starting point guard.

Having been home-schooled his entire life, Nai had also never been on a school team.  He began playing basketball at the age of five when he lived in Trenton, New Jersey.  Then, three years later, he moved to Santa Clara, California where he began playing on AAU teams.  He also often worked on basketball with his older brother, who now plays college football at Notre Dame.

Nai moved to West Lafayette in June of 2011 when his dad got the job as Director of Sports Performance at Purdue.  He played for Indiana Ice for a year before starting high school.

“I had seen him workout but didn’t know who he was,” said Coach Wood, who got a call from Nai’s dad this past summer asking about practice times.  Nai came to open gym the next day and Wood saw a “natural point guard” in him.

Nai had also played football up until three years ago before deciding to focus just on basketball, his favorite sport.  “I like the competition and the change of pace,” he said.

On a senior-dominant team, Wood was very pleased with how well they all meshed immediately.  Nai said everyone has been “very welcoming.”  At first he was deferring a lot to the seniors, but he has become more assertive himself throughout the season.

Nai Carlisle '16 shoots during practice.  Nai is playing in his first season as varsity point guard.
Nai Carlisle ’16 shoots during practice. Nai is playing in his first season as varsity point guard.

Nai’s natural ability has helped with a smooth transition.  “Nai is great at taking care of the ball,” said Brody Forbes ’13.  “He’s a tremendous athlete, and he’s one of the best finishers around the basket I’ve ever seen.”

Among the many positive things to say about his freshman point guard, Wood said the most impressive is how smart Nai is.  “I tell him something one time and he’s got it,” said Wood.  He is always open to learning everything he can.

Even with all the attention Nai has gotten on and off the court, he remains humble.  He said, “I just try to give all the glory to God.”



  • Movie – Good Burger
  • TV Show – Ben 10
  • Actor – Denzel Washington
  • Holiday – Thanksgiving
  • Food – Cordon Bleu
  • Basketball player – Kobe Bryant


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