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NELSON, THE HAWK WILL NEVER DIE
Courtesy: SJU Athletic Communications  
Release:  09/01/2004
DAYTON, OH (03/14/03) -- There's a saying on the corner of 54th and City Avenue that claims "The Hawk Will Never Die." Friday night in a raucous UD Arena, there were many Hawks who refused to die - the team, the mascot, and the fans. But it was the feisty point guard with a heart the size of his hometown of Chester who most embodied the maxim. He would not let his team die; if they were to lose, they would go down swinging. Jameer Nelson proved that he is the most valuable player to his team in the nation. There are other players in the country who average more points or hand out more assists. But when the chips are down and there are 12,000 screaming Dayton fans that want nothing more than for you to fail, it was Nelson who stepped up his game. With Delonte West seeing limited time -- and the minutes he played Friday were spent limping down the court -- the burden on Nelson's shoulder was doubled. Throw in Dayton's pressure man-to-man defense, which harassed Pat Carroll as soon as he stepped on the court, and the burden tripled. In the end, Nelson proved up to the task of serving as SJU's sole offensive threat. His 39-point effort single-handedly kept Saint Joseph's afloat. Not only did they avoid sinking, but the Hawks very nearly reached the harbor with Nelson captaining the ship. SJU was gasping for air at the 15:59 mark of the second half, trailing by a game-high 19 points with the roof of UD Arena ready to explode. Nelson would score 21 of St. Joe's next 37 points, as the Crimson and Gray outscored the Flyers 37-21 the rest of the way. With defenders draped all over him, he maneuvered through the lane and drew fouls. He snuck his way through the trees and remained in the air for what seemed like seconds before flipping a shot off the glass. A simple glance at the box score is enough to explain Nelson's value to the Hawks' offense. He scored 39 of their 73 points, shooting 11-for-19 from the floor and 14-for-16 from the foul line. Despite his scorer's mentality Friday, he still dished five assists. But to dismiss his effort on the defensive end would be a failure to appreciate Nelson's complete game. He was credited with three steals, but his near misses could have made the total close to 10. As head coach Phil Martelli employed a frantic full-court press in an attempt to bring his team back, Nelson flew from side to side, looking to double-team the ball. It is easy for a player of his stature to play hard when his team has the ball. But rarely do you see a superstar who skins knees diving on the hardwood for loose balls -- and not once, but multiple times a game. In the beginning of the season, Nelson was elected a co-captain despite being a junior. His teammates couldn't have selected a better leader -- not just because he scores the most points, but also because he makes his teammates better. His effort is contagious, his leadership respected. Preseason prognosticators picked Saint Joseph's to finish in the middle of the pack in the Atlantic 10. The team is now 23-6 and preparing for just its second ever at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. Breakout seasons from West and Pat Carroll were key, and the development of other young players also played major parts in the Hawks' success. But there is one reason that this team will gather on Selection Sunday and not have to worry about a bid to the big dance, but instead just wonder what seed it will be given and what region it will travel to. That reason is the point guard with a heart the size of Chester, the concrete proof that "The Hawk Will Never Die." --Kevin Bonner/Saint Joseph's Sports Media Relations