By Hector Longo
---- — Rick Nault remembers that first Monday in December of 2010 as if it were yesterday.
“Our guys are really getting after it, you know, first day of tryouts, coming off a state championship, and there’s Tyler Nelson, all 5-6, 130-something pounds of him, mixing it up with them,” said Nault, the seven-year Central Catholic boys hoop coach. “You could see right there he belonged. He knew it, too. And he went on to play earlier in the rotation than any freshman we’ve had.”
Bradford’s Nelson, our Eagle-Tribune boys hoop MVP as a junior, employed a similar strategy this week in determining his hoop future.
Armed with six offers, including one to play in the Atlantic-10 Conference at George Washington, Nelson came down to a final three of Dartmouth, Fairfield University and Binghamton.
“I’m looking for the opportunity to play right away and compete. Fitting in and playing immediately are very important to me. Fairfield University offers me the best chance to do that,” said Nelson, who yesterday made his verbal commitment to play on scholarship for coach Sydney Johnson’s Stags.
Fairfield, a Division 1 school in southern Connecticut, plays in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference with the likes of Siena, Iona, Monmouth and Manhattan among others.
“I really felt most comfortable there, and in the end that made all the difference,” said Nelson, who played his summer ball with Leo Papile’s BABC group. “When this whole recruitment phase started, the idea was that I would have liked the decision to be made before my senior year began, but I wasn’t planning on it. It just happened, and now I’m excited about that.”
While the process yielded trips around the nation to play on the AAU level with chances to compete with some of the best players in the country, it grew into a grind for Nelson.
“It’s stressful ... at times, you really don’t know what to believe and what not to believe when people are talking to you,” said Nelson. “You really aren’t sure if you can trust anyone. At that point, I relied on my parents a lot, and Coach Nault, too, to help in the process.”
Already entrenched as one of the greats in Central history, the two-time Eagle-Tribune All-Star averaged 16.7 points a game for the North champion Raiders last winter. He enters his senior year with 926 career points.
First things first for Nelson, however. Central Catholic golf tryouts commenced this week.
Nelson, who plays out of Atkinson Country Club, returns off an Eagle-Tribune All-Star season, in which he captured the Merrimack Valley Conference Championship and Player of the Year.
FIVE IN SEVEN YEARS FOR CENTRAL Sure, they have to be blessed with athleticism, but Rick Nault takes some pride at the rate that his Central Catholic boys basketball program is churning out scholarship players. "That's five in seven years, six if you count Wilfredo (Pagan, who played four years at Division 2 Merrimack)," said Nault proudly. "I'm pretty sure there's not another MIAA school that can come close to matching that." With Tyler Nelson's commitment to Fairfield yesterday, that adds to an already impressive list for Nault including: Adrian Gonzalez at Bentley, Billy Marsden at SNHU, Carson Desrosiers at Wake Forest and Jimmy Zenevitch at Assumption.