"I just saw everybody start to cry. Everybody was in shock," Dion Nesmith said, remembering the meeting in which Northeastern Athletic Director Peter Roby announced the school's decision to cut the football team. "Nobody knew what had just happened. The Coaches didn't know, nobody knew what was going on."
Nesmith arrived at Northeastern's Boston campus in the fall of 2009, planning on redshirting his freshman season to one day start at quarterback for the Huskies at Parsons Field in Brookline, Mass. That day never came. Nesmith transferred to Monmouth once Northeastern ceased its football program and returned to the hardwood.
In his two years at Monmouth, Nesmith averaged 8.4 points, 2.7 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.2 steals in 25.2 minutes per game. Upon graduating from Monmouth last spring, the guard transferred to Hofstra for his final year of eligibly while enrolling in Graduate School.
Now one of the leading scorers in the CAA (12.9 ppg) and passers (4.1 apg), Nesmith returns to Northeastern's campus tonight for the first time since departing for Monmouth following his freshman year. Mid-Major Madness spoke with Nesmith prior to his big game.
Mid-Major Madness: You're returning to Northeastern for the first time since 2010 tonight. For those who don't know your story, how did your time end on Huntington Avenue?
Dion Nesmith: The football program was cut around Thanksgiving break my freshman year and I elected to stay for the second semester until I found a place that I wanted to go. I transferred out at the end of the second semester to go to Monmouth University [to play basketball].
MMM: What was that transition like to go from a full-time football player to a full-time basketball player?
Nesmith: Growing up my whole life, I played football and basketball. Kind of around that time when football season ended I would immediately go right back to basketball, so it was actually a little weird for me to not go right to basketball when the season was over. But once the season was over and the program got cut, I had time to get myself situated and get back into basketball mode. It wasn't too difficult for me because It was something I had always done.
MMM: Have you thought about Northeastern over the last several years? Have you wondered what it would have been like to still be a student in Boston?
Nesmith: Oh yea, definitely. You think about it because you had so many friends that you met there and they're all doing different things now and we're all in different stages of our lives. But you always think about what it could have been like if we all stayed.
MMM: What is it going to be like to walk back into Matthews Arena again?
Nesmith: It's going to be a different feeling, you know, because when I was there, I would go to the games as a spectator and watch the team play to support my university. And now the shoes on the other foot and I'm going in there trying to get that game.
MMM: Will it be an emotional moment for you at all?
Nesmith: Nah, I don't think so. It's just another game that we have to go out there and win. I can't make it about me, I have to make it more about the team.
MMM: Going back to your career path to this point, you played at Monmouth for two years. How did you end up at Hofstra for your final year of eligibility?
Nesmith: The transfer rules allow you to transfer somewhere post-grad and play right away, so I thought it would be a good opportunity for me to go somewhere else, knowing my minutes would almost double. I played 20-something minutes a game [at Monmouth] and now I'm playing 30-something minutes a game now. So it's a lot more playing time.
MMM: Outside of more playing time, what was attractive about the Hofstra program and coach Joe Mihalich?
Nesmith: When I sat down and talked to him, I really liked the way he treated his coaching staff. I talked to some of the players that had been there and the way they talked about the school, I just thought it would be a good fit for me. I liked coach's style of play and he's just a really genuine person.
MMM: You guys got off to a hot start in conference play, surprising people with a 3-1 record. Now you're on a four-game losing streak. How tough has it been over the last two weeks?
Nesmith: It's definitely tough. We've lost a couple tough ones. We lost a starter [in Jordan Allen] for a couple games, that definitely hurt us. But now that everyone's back, we can get back into things after having a little time off, get our legs back under us and pull this one out.
MMM: Speaking of your teammates, Jamall Robinson has had a pretty impressive freshman year. What's it's been like to see him grow and perform so highly?
Nesmith: It's great. He works hard and he does everything the coaches tell him to do. He's just out there making plays and having fun playing basketball, so that's always great to see.
MMM: You have Northeastern tonight and then you're back home for UNCW on Saturday. Those are probably two winnable games for you guys and if you win those, you're right back at .500 in the conference. Did you expect the CAA to be so competitive and so full of parity?
Nesmith: It's the same in every conference. Teams always seem to play better in conference and the competition level raises up because you know the stakes are higher. It's all about winning that tournament so you can get to the big dance.
MMM: What do you guys have to do to move forward and win that CAA Tournament to go dancing?
Nesmith: We have to stick together as a team and do it together. We have enough pieces to get it done.