Fields dreams of fourth OVC title

Junior guard Dexter Fields has started every game this season and is averaging 7.2 points per game. || Samuel T. Hays/The News
Junior guard Dexter Fields has started every game this season and is averaging 7.2 points per game. || Samuel T. Hays/The News

Junior guard Dexter Fields has started every game this season and is averaging 7.2 points per game. || Samuel T. Hays/The News

Every athlete is a little bit different. Sometimes, an athlete looks so intensely focused, they seem almost inhuman. Sometimes they look a bit lackadaisical and leave fans wondering if they even care about the sport. Sometimes, athletes just look like they’re having the time of their life each time they play.

Dexter Fields is one of those athletes.

Whether he’s running to chest bump a teammate after sinking a shot, boasting his trademark smile after sinking a shot of his own, getting in an opponent’s face to distract him or pointing to the crowd asking for more noise, Fields almost always looks like he is having fun.

When looking at the junior guard’s profile, his hometown is listed as Orlando, Fla., but he was actually born in Palatka, Fla., where he grew up with one brother and eight sisters. It was also in Palatka where Field’s love of basketball was born.

“My family was pretty much a football family so I don’t know how I came about liking the game of basketball,” Fields said. “I just grew up playing and started loving the game.”

Fields began playing football and basketball at age four. In middle school, however, Fields dropped football and began to hone in on basketball.

In seventh grade, he developed a close relationship with his travel basketball coach, Diana Neal. Before he began high school, Fields made the tough decision to move away from his family to Orlando with Neal, hoping to receive more attention for his game than he would have in small-town Palatka.

“My family was definitely my biggest influence,” he said. “They gave their last for us. They were both very hard working parents and they taught me to work hard at everything I do and I think that’s why I’m successful today. So it was really tough for me when I decided to move away because they were such big influences for me.”

Fields found immense success in Orlando, becoming a basketball standout at Olympia High School. After his junior season, Fields drew interest from Louisiana State, Central Florida, Western Kentucky, University of Alabama at Birmingham and Murray State.

In the end, Fields chose to take his game to UAB.

During his senior season, Fields averaged 17.7 points per game, leading his team to a 28-5 record and the No. 1 ranking in the state.

Fields stepped in right away at UAB, averaging 9.6 minutes and 3.4 points per game during his freshman year. The sharp shooter’s role increased in his second year, playing in all 31 games while averaging 22.5 minutes and 7.1 points. The 2010-11 UAB team won its conference and made a trip to the NCAA Tournament, losing in the first round to Clemson. After UAB’s championship season, Fields began contemplating the idea of transferring.

“There were a lot of things going on at UAB that just weren’t working out, and I knew Murray had just gotten a new coach and they had been recruiting me out of high school, so I knew Coach Prohm a little bit,” Fields said.

In addition to knowing Prohm, Fields also knew assistant coach James Kane, who recruited him in Florida while he was still in high school. During the summer after his sophomore year, Fields made the decision to transfer and become a Racer.

“I knew I needed a better place where I could be more focused. I feel like I’m more focused here than in a big city with a lot of distractions so that’s why I came here.”

Per NCAA rules, Fields was forced to sit out the 2011-12 season due to his decision to transfer. It just so happened, that was the most successful season in Racer basketball history, making the missed season all the more painful for Fields.

“I was glad I got to sit on the bench and observe it, but it was really tough because I wanted to be a part of it also,” Fields said. “I think me sitting out a year helped me a lot though because I was able to fix a lot of things that needed work.”

After sitting out an entire year, Fields was ready to play as the new season rolled around. Fields couldn’t wait to get on the court. Just as he did when he moved to Orlando and when he started at UAB, Fields again found immediate success. He has started each game this year while averaging 7.2 points per game. After half a season of playing, Fields remains happy with his choice to come to Murray State.

“My last year at UAB we did win our conference and I did get a ring,” Fields said. “But I feel like here, winning is the expectation. The program is built on winning and every year they win championships. So the biggest difference is here you walk into every game and you’re expected to win.”

While Fields continues to dream of a fourth straight conference championship for the Racers, he also has dreams of one day playing basketball professionally. He hopes to continue playing the sport he loves while being able to eventually provide for his family. Right now, however, Fields is focusing on this team and this season. Excited to finally prove himself after a long year of sitting out, the sharp shooter is as hungry as ever to help the Racers succeed.

“I’m feeling really good with the team and the record we have. We are pretty good right now and we still haven’t reached our peak,” he said. “Nobody knows how good this team can be right now and that’s what Coach Prohm has been saying, and everybody is buying into it. We’re good right now but we can be great.”

Regardless of the team’s success, No. 23 is smiling and having a good time. In his first season playing for Murray State, Fields continues to find success while enjoying playing the game he has loved since he was four. ­

Story by Jonathan Ferris, Staff writer.