Scoggins: Onetime Gophers QB recruit Nance hits stride with St. Thomas hoops

  • Article by: CHIP SCOGGINS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 21, 2013 - 11:23 PM

John Nance gave football and the U a chance, but he didn't hit his stride until switching to basketball and St. Thomas.

hide

University of St. Thomas guard John Nance

Photo: Carlos Gonzalez, Star Tribune

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

The derisive chant cascaded from the student section.

D-I reject! D-I reject! D-I reject!

Opposing fans had serenaded John Nance with something along those lines before, and it happened to the St. Thomas senior guard again during a recent game. Nance laughs about it because, to him, it's complete nonsense that has no effect on his psyche.

"I don't understand it," he said. "It's not really an insult to me. I took an opportunity to go Division I and I gave it a chance."

Besides, it feels like a lifetime ago that he signed a football scholarship with the Gophers, one of two quarterbacks recruited to Dinkytown by former coach Tim Brewster in his 2008 class. Five years later, Nance is not a football player anymore. Or on a full-ride scholarship. And he competes in relative obscurity compared to the bright-light scrutiny of Big Ten football, though the actual distance that separates him now is only 5 miles.

He couldn't be happier with how things turned out.

"It's been a lot of fun," he said.

Nance is senior captain on a St. Thomas basketball team that finished the regular season 24-1 and ranked No. 1 nationally in NCAA Division III. The Tommies won their eighth consecutive MIAC title and led all D-III teams in average margin of victory at 22.0 points. They enter the postseason Friday seeking their second national championship in three seasons.

Nance's impact is measured by his versatility. He leads the Tommies in assists, steals, blocks and minutes played and is third in scoring at 10.1 points per game. He's made 57 percent of his shots and is one of the best perimeter defenders in D-III, according to St. Thomas coach John Tauer.

"The thing I'm most proud of is, he's become our leader," Tauer said.

Nance's story also serves as another reminder that an athlete's college career often deviates from its anticipated trajectory. College football recently held its national signing day, which always generates excitement and breathless prognostications over the future of unproven prospects. But we tend to forget that this is merely the starting point on a path that could lead them virtually anywhere. Even to another sport.

Nance figured his basketball career was over when he graduated from Cretin-Derham Hall and accepted a football scholarship. Basketball was his favorite sport and he received scholarship offers from a few Division II schools as a senior, but he couldn't turn down a free education at a Big Ten school without at least giving it a shot.

He arrived in the same recruiting class as four-star quarterback MarQueis Gray, who received the red-carpet treatment from Brewster as a potential program-changer. Nance fit the profile of a project who needed a few years to develop physically. He wasn't naive about his prospects for playing time.

"I gave it a try my first year," he said. "I saw that I wasn't going to get my chance, and I missed basketball a lot."

He played intramural basketball with some friends during his redshirt season and ultimately decided to transfer after the school year. Nance went to the St. Thomas summer camp as a kid and Tauer recruited him in high school. It seemed like a natural fit, except Tauer warned Nance that he would remain glued to the bench unless he took care of the ball, stopped making so many careless one-handed passes and played better defense.

"He didn't believe me," Tauer said. "He came here and the first year he sat the bench and was really frustrated."

Said Nance: "My coaches were yelling at me and I was like, 'What? I used to be able to do this all the time.' It was an interesting transition."

He matured and adapted as a player and eventually found his place in the program. He scored 16 points off the bench in the 2011 national championship game and became a starter and all-conference performer last season. He has played even better this season.

Nance's college career will come to a close after the playoffs. He has won 99 games in a St. Thomas uniform and has a chance to finish with two national titles. And he is on track to earn his degree in business management this spring.

Call him names if you must, but Nance's college experience is a success story, nothing less.

"I definitely didn't see this path at all," he said. "I'm happy with my decision, and it's been a great journey."

Chip Scoggins • ascoggins@startribune.com

  • MEN'S MIAC SEMIFINALS ST. THOMAS VS. CARLETON

    7:30 p.m. today • Schoenecker Arena

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Tennessee 7:25 PM
Jacksonville
Philadelphia 12/20/14 3:30 PM
Washington
San Diego 12/20/14 7:25 PM
San Francisco
Minnesota 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Miami
Baltimore 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Houston
Detroit 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Chicago
Cleveland 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Carolina
Atlanta 12/21/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Green Bay 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Kansas City 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Pittsburgh
New England 12/21/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
NY Giants 12/21/14 3:05 PM
St. Louis
Buffalo 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Oakland
Indianapolis 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Dallas
Seattle 12/21/14 7:30 PM
Arizona
Denver 12/22/14 7:30 PM
Cincinnati
Atlanta 127 FINAL
Cleveland 98
Phoenix 111 FINAL
Charlotte 106
Dallas 117 FINAL
Detroit 106
Utah 105 FINAL
Miami 87
Orlando 92 FINAL
Boston 109
Brooklyn 89 FINAL
Toronto 105
Memphis 117 FINAL
San Antonio 116
Milwaukee 97 FINAL
Portland 104
Houston 115 FINAL
Denver 111
Indiana 100 FINAL
LA Clippers 102
Ottawa 2 FINAL
New Jersey 0
Boston 3 FINAL(OT)
Minnesota 2
Dallas 2 FINAL
Vancouver 0
Langston 65 FINAL
North Texas 78
Delaware State 72 FINAL
St Francis-NY 64
James Madison 72 FINAL
Ball State 52
SIU Edwardsville 65 FINAL
Campbell 70
St Francis-PA 67 FINAL
Duquesne 52
North Florida 77 FINAL
Florida State 93
Catawba 69 FINAL
George Mason 99
Ferrum 48 FINAL
High Point 106
Hampton 55 FINAL
Illinois 73
Gardner-Webb 65 FINAL
Jacksonville 68
Longwood 60 FINAL
Miami-Ohio 71
Arkansas State 69 FINAL
Miss State 55
Tennessee 72 FINAL
NC State 83
NC A&T 55 FINAL
Ohio State 97
Manhattan 56 FINAL
Pittsburgh 65
Robert Morris 57 FINAL
Toledo 83
Char Southern 58 FINAL
Wofford 64
Kennesaw St 90 FINAL
Youngstown St 84
Barber-Scotia 52 FINAL
NC Central 108
Detroit 70 FINAL
UCF 75
Liberty 70 FINAL
UNC-Wilmington 73
TX A&M-CC 73 FINAL
Denver 83
Ark-Pine Bluff 61 FINAL
Houston 56
UT Martin 54 FINAL
Illinois State 64
Milligan 76 FINAL
Louisiana 115
Abilene Christian 44 FINAL
Loyola-Chicago 83
USC Upstate 73 FINAL
Memphis 83
Alcorn State 56 FINAL
Murray State 94
Central Mich 80 FINAL
Northwestern 67
Georgia State 54 FINAL
Old Dominion 58
TX-Pan American 69 FINAL
Saint Louis 75
Ill-Chicago 46 FINAL
SMU 67
Texas State 60 FINAL
Stephen F Austin 66
SC State 39 FINAL
Texas Tech 101
Missouri State 70 FINAL
Tulsa 74
Chicago State 60 FINAL
Western Ky 75
Morehead State 50 FINAL
Green Bay 66
Northern Colorado 82 FINAL
Nebraska Omaha 92
Winthrop 62 FINAL
Auburn 80
New Mexico St 55 FINAL
Baylor 66
San Diego St 62 FINAL
Cincinnati 71
Eastern Mich 46 FINAL
Michigan State 66
Loyola Marymount 58 FINAL
Stanford 67
Incarnate Word 82 FINAL
Grand Canyon 80
Northeastern 58 FINAL
Cal Poly 60
Central Arkansas 55 FINAL
New Mexico 76
Howard 45 FINAL
Pepperdine 53
Portland 73 FINAL
UNLV 75
CS-Northridge 56 FINAL
Oregon 79
Grambling St 38 FINAL
Washington 86
Nevada 12/20/14 10:00 AM
Louisiana
Utah State 12/20/14 1:20 PM
Texas-El Paso
(23) Utah 12/20/14 2:30 PM
Colorado State
Western Mich 12/20/14 4:45 PM
Air Force
South Alabama 12/20/14 8:15 PM
Bowling Green
BYU 12/22/14 1:00 PM
Memphis
Marshall 12/23/14 5:00 PM
Northern Ill
Navy 12/23/14 8:30 PM
San Diego St
Central Mich 12/24/14 11:00 AM
Western Ky
Fresno State 12/24/14 7:00 PM
Rice
Western Carolina 79 FINAL
UNC-Asheville 66
(21) Miss State 66 FINAL
Louisiana 51
(25) DePaul 109 FINAL
Loyola-Chicago 84
Liberty 64 FINAL
NC State 67
Elon 77 FINAL
Campbell 51
Akron 73 FINAL
UCF 64
Richmond 77 FINAL
UNC-Wilmington 67
Montana 70 FINAL
Seattle 64
(7) Stanford 46 FINAL
Chattanooga 54
Florida A&M 69 FINAL
Southern U 80
Oklahoma 72 FINAL
(13) Duke 92
Savannah State 56 FINAL
Auburn 62
Northern Colorado 43 FINAL
South Florida 84
Youngstown St 73 FINAL
Robert Morris 65
Siena 75 FINAL
Sacred Heart 65
Vermont 63 FINAL
St Francis-NY 61
(1) South Carolina 69 FINAL
Hampton 49
Fla Gulf Coast 91 FINAL
Bethune-Cookman 46
Texas Southern 92 FINAL
Houston Baptist 80
Northwestern 88 FINAL
UNLV 84
NC A&T 70 FINAL
Appalachian St 72
NC Central 52 FINAL
Coastal Carolina 67
Drexel 50 FINAL
Quinnipiac 74
Cincinnati 52 FINAL
Northern Ky 66
Alabama State 53 FINAL
Georgia Tech 77
Morehead St 69 FINAL
USC Upstate 75
Arkansas State 59 FINAL
Kent State 44
American Univ 60 FINAL
Manhattan 52
UNC Greensboro 60 FINAL
St Bonaventure 78
Arkansas-Monticello 56 FINAL
Northwestern St 61
Prairie View 70 FINAL
Sam Houston St 51
McNeese State 59 FINAL
(3) Texas 76
Yale 90 FINAL
Wagner 65
Oakland 61 FINAL
TX A&M-CC 54
Eastern Kentucky 62 FINAL
Alabama A&M 56
SIU-Edwardsville 47 FINAL
Northern Ill 69
McMurry 25 FINAL
TX-Arlington 82
Portland 65 FINAL
Eastern Washington 72
North Texas 42 FINAL
San Francisco 60

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Who is your favorite pro sports coach in the Twin Cities?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close