By Nick Mazzerella – STAFF WRITER
From high school to Hofstra, Dion Nesmith’s path has been anything but direct.
Nesmith, a graduate guard from Union, N.J., played basketball and football at Union High School. Coming out of high school, he chose to play football, not basketball, in college.
“Football starts in the summer, and you play throughout the fall all the way to the winter,” said Nesmith.
Due to football’s time demands, Nesmith wasn’t able to gain as much basketball exposure as others. “A lot of guys play [Amateur Athletic Union] basketball,” he said. “A lot of coaches didn’t get to see me because I was at football.”
Nesmith, then a quarterback, went to Northeastern University in 2009, where he redshirted his freshman year. The following year Northeastern cut its football program after Nesmith’s first season – a season in which he watched games from the sideline. That was it for his college football career.
“It was a tough day when the program got cut, and I thought to myself, ‘If I transfer to another program of the same level, it’s a possibility that it’ll happen again,’” he said. “I never wanted it to happen again.”
Nesmith transferred to Monmouth University, where he sat out again – this time due to NCAA rules. He became eligible after a year, and played for the Hawks in the 2011-12 season (averaging 8.8 points per game) and the 2012-13 season (averaging 8.1 points per game). After playing there for two years and graduating with a degree in finance, Nesmith said that it was time for a change.
“Coach and I felt that it was best that we both go our separate ways,” he said.
That was when Nesmith pledged to Hofstra, where Joe Mihalich had only been the coach for two months. Nesmith came in contact with the Pride because his high school coach has a good relationship with Mike Farrelly, an assistant coach on Mihalich’s staff.
When asked about his journey that included stops at three different schools, Nesmith said this isn’t how he pictured it from day one.
“It’s been exciting though… a lot of ups, a lot of downs,” he said. “I wouldn’t change anything.”
Nesmith is happy where he is, and so are Hofstra fans. Last season, he averaged 13.3 points and 4.2 assists en route to third team all-CAA honors. This year, he was voted to the preseason all-CAA second team.
Many thought Nesmith had just one year of eligibility remaining upon his arrival at Hofstra, but since he only played for three years and redshirted the other two, the NCAA granted him a sixth year of eligibility. There was more college basketball to be played.
“A few months into last season, Coach Mihalich got word that I was given another year,” said Nesmith. “I was definitely excited.”
Nesmith is looked at as one of the senior members on the team since he’s the only graduate student on the roster. “It’s a good feeling. I’ve earned it and been around here for a long time now… [My teammates] call me the ‘old guy,’” said Nesmith. “It’s good to know everybody listens to you, they respect you and your word carries a lot.”
With so many players on this year’s roster that can shoot and score, Nesmith said that the Pride can really spread the floor. Despite the team’s depth, he said he doesn’t feel any less pressure than last season when Hofstra’s bench was short.
“I don’t know if I would say less pressure,” he said. “But you have other guys that you can look to to get things done.”
One of those guys is junior guard Juan’ya Green, whose presence, Nesmith said, makes him a better player. Nesmith has no problem playing either guard position, especially since Green doesn’t demand the ball and looks for his teammates when he has it.
Nesmith’s goal is to win a CAA championship, which can be accomplished if, according to Nesmith, “we buy into Coach Mihalich’s plan and do what he says.”
Nesmith discussed how he made personal adjustments prior to the 2014 season and how he feels more confident with a year of experience under his belt working with coach Mihalich.
“Last year I was going into games not really knowing what spots to choose… towards the end of the year I kind of got a better feel for the system,” he said. “I think the second year will be a big help. I’ve been working a lot this year.”
Overall, Nesmith enjoys his time with Hofstra for all the athletic and academic opportunities.
“Hofstra means the world to me,” said Nesmith. “The academics are very challenging, and the athletics are everything I wanted. I just love it.”
As for his plans after college, Nesmith hopes that he can play professional basketball overseas. Right now, the journeyman who went from Northeastern to Monmouth to Hofstra is enjoying his final ride with the Pride.