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Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Nashua’s Jake Nelson breaks fast this year with Rivier University basketball

NASHUA – Time was winding down, and Jake Nelson just let it fly as the buzzer sounded.

Jackpot. Nelson not only hit a game-winner to help the Rivier University men’s basketball team win it’s own early season invitational tournament against Endicott, he finally felt as if his comeback was working. ...

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NASHUA – Time was winding down, and Jake Nelson just let it fly as the buzzer sounded.

Jackpot. Nelson not only hit a game-winner to help the Rivier University men’s basketball team win it’s own early season invitational tournament against Endicott, he finally felt as if his comeback was working.

Nelson is back on the floor for the Raiders after not one but two knee surgeries to repair a torn ACL. He was on the mend from the first operation in the preseason of 2012-13 and re-injured the knee, shelving him for the season.

“I’m just trying to work my way in,” said Nelson, who was a standout at Nashua High School South. “One shot can kind of get you going.

“This team has been so supportive of me. Just when I hit that shot it felt so great. I missed being part of this team so much.”

It got him going all right, as he scored 23 points his next game in a 67-63 win over New England College just before Thanksgiving.

Nelson, when he hurt his knee the second time, tried to stay with the Raiders for a bit, but just couldn’t stand being on the bench in street clothes and not playing.

So he asked Rivier coach Dave Morissette, whom he’s known since he was 9 years old, if he could step away.

“It was so hard for him to even be around the team,” Morissette said. “I said ‘Jake, I get it. Go do your rehab’

I keep telling people, don’t put pressure on the kids. He’s a hard worker, and he’s gone through more rehab than any kid I’ve seen.”

“The team understood,” Nelson said. “It was just so frustrating for me to sit and watch. You feel like you’re not doing anything. Basketball has been such a big part of my life since I could walk.”

Nelson could finally stop watching and do more than just walking as he was cleared for full basketball activity just before practice was to start in October. But it was a tough go early on, as one would expect after a year off.

“Jake has been frustrated at times,” Morissette said. “Trying to do the things he used to do – he’s not quite 100 percent to make those sharp moves.

“You notice that he’s tentative to go to the hoop. That’s a mental thing. We’ve got to get him over that.”

The Raiders have been working Nelson in slowly. The non-league start to the season has been a perfect chance to do that, but now Great Northeast Athletic Conference play begins Tuesday at Suffolk. Then, in conference matchups, St. Joseph’s of Maine is in Nashua on Saturday, and the last game before the holidays is at Anna Maria on Dec. 9.

Nelson knows he just needs confidence.

“Mentally it’s just getting it in your head that you’re healthy,” he said. “I’m not quite where I want to be yet, but I’m getting there.”

He proved that with his much needed effort in the win at New England College. He wasn’t able to jump the way he normally could when he first returned and now he’s making strides.

“Some days I’m elevating the right way,” he said. “It affects you’re shot, sometimes you’re not releasing the ball the right way.”

Nelson remembers breaking his ankle in high school and missing a huge chunk of his senior year with the Panthers. That was hard then, and the last 16 months have been even harder. But better times appear ahead.

“I was so happy for him,” Morissette said, “when he made that shot.”

Nashua’s Farmer honored

Nelson isn’t the only South alum doing well. Ray Farmer, a freshman at Daniel Webster College, was recently named the New England Collegiate Conference Rookie of the Week for his play in the 4-0 Eagles’ first three wins.

In DWC’s first three games, Farmer averaged 11.7 points, 9.3 rebounds, five assists and 2.3 steals per game and shot 60 percent from the floor (15 of 25). He had 14 points, 11 boards, six assists and four steals in the Midnight Madness win over Nelson’s Raiders. He had 12 points on 5-for-6 shooting in a win over the University of New England, then nine points and nine boards (plus six assists and a block) in a win over Norwich.

The Eagles also begin conference play this week. Their NECC opener is Tuesday at 8 p.m. at the Vagge Gym vs. Wheelock.

Notes

LIKE OLD TIMES: Speaking of the Midnight Madness game, Nelson said that despite the 79-75 OT loss to the Eagles, “That was the most fun I’ve ever had playing basketball. Reminds me of North-South.”

REBOUNDING: The Eagles women, who are 2-4 overall but recovered nicely from an 0-3 start, will know soon where they stand in the conference. They get thrown to the fire this week with three NECC contests, home vs. Newbury on Tuesday at 6 p.m., and vs. Southern Vermont on Thursday at 7, then at Bay Path on Saturday at 1 p.m. (at Holyoke, Mass,. Community College).

The Rivier women’s hoop team, which is at Framingham State on Tuesday, is the last of the locals to begin conference play. The Raiders don’t have their first GNAC game until Jan. 11 when they host St. Joseph’s (Conn.).

ON ICE: The DWC men’s ice hockey team is off until Monday, but Merrimack freshman David Downie continues his torrid pace with a team-high 18 goals and six assists for 24 points.