Flash back a couple of years. Five years to be more precise. November 21, 2009 to be very precise.
The Yankees were less than three weeks removed from their 27th World Series championship, the Jets were 3-3, but on their way to the AFC Championship game, and a Colonial Athletic Association football team played their final game before the program was dismantled.
No, for once this isn’t about Hofstra killing football. This is about Northeastern killing football. This is about the steps that led to Dion Nesmith hitting a game-winning jumper with 1.6 ticks left on the clock to down local rival Stony Brook and become a Long Island hero.
Nesmith’s long and winding road to the Mack Sports Complex free throw line, where he pulled up and sunk that game-winning 15 foot jumper Friday night, began five years ago on the Northeastern football sidelines. A red-shirt freshman and future quarterback on a team with no future, Nesmith never saw the field for the Huskies. When the team folded after a 33-27 victory at Rhode Island, Nesmith decided to not only change his school, but change his sport as well.
After enrolling at Monmouth University, Nesmith was unable to receive a waiver from the NCAA to immediately play basketball for the Hawks. Instead he would be forced to sit out yet another year, relegated to watching his teammates from the sidelines once again.
Nesmith finally saw his first game action on the first day of the 2011 season (it was 11/11/11 and his wish had come true) in a 106-70 drubbing at the hands of Villanova. He found himself in the starting lineup for that game and managed 10 points.
Nesmith would go on to average 8.8 ppg for the Hawks that season, followed by a similar season in 2012-13 where he averaged 8.1 ppg. That second year of play was in fact Nesmith’s fourth academic year and he earned his degree in Finance from Monmouth that spring.
Presented with the opportunity to transfer with no penalty as a graduate athlete, Nesmith jumped on board with Joe Mihalich as he started the process of rebranding Hofstra basketball.
“Coming to Hofstra, talking to coach Mihalich and the staff I just thought it was a great fit for me,” Nesmith said of his decision to join the Pride last season. “The way we play here, this system, it all suited my game perfectly.”
With the addition of Niagara transfers Juan’ya Green and Ameen Tanksley, who followed Mihalich to Long Island, and the support of SMU transfer and sharpshooter Brian Bernardi it seems as though the Pride finally have enough firepower to make a real run at the NCAA Tournament. For Nesmith, that was more than enough reason to return for his sixth year of college.
“My college career has been very tough,” Nesmith said. “Over the years this kind of game is one we would have lost. It means a lot that the team I’m on is finally getting over the hump. We’ve just got to keep working so we can make it to our dream of making the tournament. Coming back this year was a no-brainer. Getting the chance to play basketball is something I love to do. That was the main reason I wanted to come back – another chance to play basketball.”
And so Nesmith’s long and winding road led to Friday night. November 21, 2014 – five years to the day since his old school dismantled his football program, playing for a new school that ended their own football program on the very same day.
Nesmith didn’t score the most points on Friday night. That honor belonged to Green with a team-high 22, but it was Nesmith who got the ball in the waning seconds, pulled up at the free throw line, and buried the winning bucket for Hofstra in the first “Battle of Long Island” in nearly six years.
And it’s all because Northeastern killed football.
Vincent Simone covers Quinnipiac, the MAAC, and Hofstra for Big Apple Buckets. You can follow him on Twitter @VTSimone.