Jameer Nelson left Saint Joseph’s in 2004 as the school’s all-time leader in points, assists and steals. Fourteen years later, after spending every basketball season in the NBA, he still holds the records.
His senior season, St. Joe’s was 27-0 in the regular season and ascended to No. 1 in the polls for the only time in school history. He was on the cover of Sports Illustrated.
Those were wonderful athletic achievements by the native of Chester who was the force behind Chester High’s 2000 state championship when he was a senior.
Nelson’s legacy on Hawk Hill, however, goes beyond the court. His name is on the men’s basketball locker room because of his generous support. And, on May 19, he will be among the 2,200 graduating students, receiving a bachelor of science degree in sociology during the undergraduate ceremony. Nelson has returned to campus numerous times through the years, but none will be more impactful than that Saturday morning.
“Saint Joseph’s has been a big part of my life since I was first recruited to play there,” Nelson said in a university statement. “It was important to me to finish work on my degree and to set an example for my own children and young student-athletes who look up to me.”
Nelson began to pick up the credits he needed to earn his degree in the summer of 2016, taking courses online when he was with the Denver Nuggets, then the New Orleans Pelicans and Detroit Pistons.
“Jameer has, once again, moved me to tears,” Hawks coach Phil Martelli said. “His drive and determination to become a graduate of SJU is extraordinary, but pales in comparison to the why — for his children, for young people he supports through the Pete and Jameer Nelson Foundation, and as an example to the young guys in the NBA. May 19 will be his greatest accomplishment. I am blessed to have Jameer in my life, and I know that I join an army of Hawks, past and present, in standing to congratulate him on this milestone.”
It is somehow fitting that Don DiJulia, SJU Class of 1967, who will leave his position of athletic director May 31, will be a commencement speaker.
“Our goal is to be a national leader in support for student-athletes,” university president Dr. Mark Reed said. “Jameer, like all of our student-athletes, recognizes and appreciates that education is essential.”
So essential that Nelson, the 2004 national player of the year and a former NBA all-star, made it his goal to be with the graduates, walk with the graduates, stand with the graduates, and be a graduate himself.