It was a bit unnatural for Dexter Fields to fall in love with basketball. But fall in love with it he did, and at an early age.
“I knew I wanted to play basketball for the rest of my life, so I worked for it,” he said.
He had a long journey, but now Fields stands as the lone senior of a Murray State team that features almost an entirely new set of faces who will take the floor.
Fields was born into a football family in Palatka, Fla., which is a town dominated by the same sport.
Fields hesitated and was speechless at first when asked how he ended up on the court instead of on the field.
“I honestly just think I was born to like basketball,” he said. “I don’t even know how I first started.”
Finally, he realized his uncle had the biggest influence.
His uncle played both sports when Fields was young, but only basketball interested him.
Starting in Palatka, though, made it hard for him to draw much attention to his skills.
“Being where I was from, I wasn’t getting noticed,” Fields said. “Teams I played for weren’t bad teams, but nobody was looking at them, so I really had to work my way up.”
That is exactly what he did on his road to playing for the Racers.
While still on his hometown team, Fields played against a team from Jacksonville, Fla., which is only about an hour away.
He said they liked his style and asked him to play for their team.
Not too long after playing for Jacksonville, his team played against a squad out of Orlando, Fla.
Again, the opposing team took notice of Fields and asked him to come play for them. This time it was for a national tournament.
“After nationals, I never went back,” he said. “I just stayed with them until the end.”
Fields said he thinks it was playing for Orlando that got him noticed by Murray State.
He said he knew Assistant Coach James Kane, and the coach had a big role in getting him to Murray.
Kane was not the only connection Fields had with the Racers, though. He had played against former player Ed Daniel in the Amateur Athletic Union circuit. Fields also had a teammate who knew All-American Isaiah Canaan, someone Fields could see himself playing behind.
“I knew playing with him would have been great for me because he knows how to distribute the ball and he was getting looked at nationally,” Fields said.
Now Canaan and Daniel are gone, along with other Racer standouts Stacy Wilson and Latreze Mushatt.
Fields is faced with the difficult task of leading a team with little experience in a town that expects championships.
“It’s really difficult, but at the same time it’s not,” he said. “You’ve got a group of guys that’s willing to listen and willing to take the information that’s given to them and go apply it on the court. It’s making my job easier than if you have guys who let it go in one ear and out the other and think they know everything.”
Fields is one of the few players who can still taste the bitter ending to last season. He said looking back at last year, the team did not bring its best to each game.
As the only senior, Fields said his leadership role is different.
“I’m just trying to do my best to lead these guys the best way I can and do whatever Coach Prohm wants me to do,” he said. “I pretty much just want to be a leader and a mentor to these guys and teach them the game.”
Fields said despite being the leader, it has not really hit him that he is a senior. He said he is not looking forward to that moment because he expects it to be emotional.
In the end, though, he said he wants to look back and say he did more for his team than himself.
“After this season, I think I’ll look back and say I did a pretty good job,” he said. “There are a lot of these guys that don’t know what it feels like to play on this stage and to actually win a college ring. I have two of them, but the most important thing to me is to see these guys happy and to help them win a ring.”
Getting to play in Murray was worth the hard work, Fields said, and he is happy he has been a part of the tradition and brought back championships.
He said the community is great because of its love of basketball and supportive fans.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been around as much loving people as the Racer family,” he said. “They welcome me with open arms. The women are all like mothers and the men are all like fathers to me. I appreciate Racer Nation for accepting me into this family.”
This season, he wants to reward the fans with another OVC title. He said nothing has changed with the loss of so many players.
“The expectations are the same,” Fields said. “We want to bring a championship home to the Racer family.”
Story by Ryan Richardson, Sports Editor