by Dan Gardella
The Fairfield University basketball program is one of rich tradition and success. The Stags have played in the NCAA Tournament three times along with countless postseason appearances. Throughout the years, many players have come to Fairfield, succeeded, and gone on to play professionally between the NBA and overseas. Players ranging from Joe DeSantis to as recent as Derek Needham.
It seems fitting that senior guard Tyler Nelson is the next great Stag in program history if not one of the greatest.
Raised in Bradford, Massachusetts, about 40 minutes north of Boston, Nelson supported his hometown Boston Celtics and modeled his game after players such as Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, and Kevin Garnett.
Before he even stepped onto campus at Fairfield, he was confident in his game.
It also didn’t hurt that he had professionals giving him advice.
Tyler’s father, Jeff Nelson is a scout in the NBA. He worked for the Utah Jazz for eight years and currently scouts for the Philadelphia 76ers. Through his father, Nelson was able to meet up and build a strong relationship between himself and All-Star Gordon Hayward.
“When he (Jeff Nelson) was with the Jazz, I met Gordon when they came to Boston every year. We developed a relationship through my dad.” Said Nelson.
Nelson and Hayward exchanged numbers around Nelson’s freshman year of high school at Central Catholic High School and now talk once a week.
With Hayward’s constant advice and Nelson’s strong play throughout high school, Nelson became one of the top players in the state and received offers from many colleges and universities.
“I probably had 15 to 20 offers when it was all said and done.” Said Nelson.
Some of the schools that gave Nelson an offer were Boston College, Boston University, Dartmouth, Binghamton, Vermont, and Fairfield.
With the opportunity to play for a prestigious basketball program, he decided to go to Fairfield.
Why? Immediate impact.
“I wanted to go to a school where I could play right away as a freshman. I think Fairfield gave me that unique opportunity.” Said Nelson.
Nelson took the opportunity at Fairfield and ran with it. After averaging 10.2 points per game in his freshman campaign, he was named to the All-MAAC Rookie Team.
In each season, Nelson’s scoring numbers have increased and tops off at a staggering 20 points per game this season. But it is not his scoring that has improved the most in Nelson’s career.
“For me, I’ve felt better every year defensively and it’s helped my game develop” said Nelson about his defensive improvement.
When Nelson first arrived at Fairfield, it was the upperclassmen leadership that helped him get adjusted to the college game. Specifically, Stags alum Marcus Gilbert, who sits fifth all time in points scored and current plays professional basketball in Portugal. ‘
“Watching him and his work ethic really helped me a lot.” Said Nelson.
As Nelson’s career at Fairfield draws closer to an end, he sits at 1,737 career points, 269 points behind Tony George’s all-time scoring record of 2,006 points he set during his career from 1982-1986. While it’s a significant achievement, it is not Nelson’s goal.
“My main focus is to win games and if we can do that, everything else will fall into place.” Said Nelson.
Nelson will finish his career at Fairfield with plenty of accolades. He was named to the All-MAAC First Team along with NABC All-District First team in his junior season. He also landed a spot on the All-MAAC Second Team after his sophomore season in which he scored 16 points a contest. The 2017-18 preseason player of the year will likely land on the All-MAAC First team again this season with chances of taking home player of the year in the conference. Nelson would be the first Stag to take home the award since Tony George did so in 1986.
Not matter the awards or records, Nelson will have a lasting impression on Fairfield University.