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Fairfield's Nero has newfound goal away from basketball court

Thursday 26 May 2011

From US newspaper the Stamford Advocate:


Stamford AdvocateELSBERRY Fairfield's Nero has newfound goal away from basketball court

By Chris Elsberry
Updated 09:30 p.m., Saturday, May 21, 2011

ORANGE -- There was a smile on his face and a slight spring to his step.

For those who follow Fairfield University men's basketball, the saga of Greg Nero has been one of hardship and heartbreak. A promising start as a freshman led to success as a sophomore and even greater heights -- for a while -- as a junior before that basketball career came crashing down.

He played hurt. He played sick. He played that way because Nero was and always will be focused and determined on doing what he could to help the team win, no matter the cost.

No one knew, however, that cost would be so high.

First, it was mononucleosis that hit Nero midway through his junior season. Then, it was back spasms and other aches and pains. He kept playing, battling to try to help the Stags reach their first winning season in six years. By the time of the 2009 MAAC tournament in March, however, Nero, then a junior, was playing on fumes. His body was breaking down.

He played against Manhattan, scoring 11 points and locking up Fairfield's first winning season since 2003, but he spent several hours in the Albany, N.Y., hospital after the game, receiving IV fluids. He even played the next night against Siena, although Nero doesn't remember.

That's how bad he was.

Nero missed the entire 2009-10 season with chronic fatigue syndrome, but with a major change in diet and thanks to several natural medicines, after almost two years, his health came back to the point where he actually returned to the Stags, put on his old No. 44 and played eight games in 2010-11.

Because he was determined to help Fairfield win.

But after those eight games, it was obvious that Nero didn't have the same energy or the same ability, so he took off the uniform and put away the shoes. Forever.

These days, Nero is feeling good. Good enough to attend the recent Fairfield men's and women's basketball banquet. Good enough to take the stage -- at new coach Sydney Johnson's urging -- and speak about the 2010-11 season. Good enough to think about continuing his education toward a new career path.

"I'm feeling a lot better. It's just one of those things, you know? You have to give it time and that's what I've been doing," Nero said. "I've been taking it easy, taking a light course load this semester, so I was able to have a lot of free time and relax. Actually, I'm exercising and working out again, but I don't have to push myself, which is good."

Nero said that, after he stopped playing in December, he started to feel better around April, a far cry from feeling dizzy and weak for almost two years as he recovered from chronic fatigue syndrome. Still, it was somewhat frustrating.

"It took me a couple of months to recoup, which was surprising. I thought I'd be over it in a couple of weeks since I was still doing the vitamins, the holistic stuff," he said. "But I'm able to work out now and not feel sick afterwards, which is great. I'm in a better state of mind overall, I'm feeling better. I'm happy because I'm in a much better place than I was."

Admittedly, Nero was slightly depressed after having to stop playing. He wanted to play at the same level he did when he first arrived and thought that he could. When the realization hit that he couldn't, it was tough to accept. For a while.

"I kind of knew the whole time that I wasn't really myself but I tried to push through it. I was hoping that maybe ... I was even told by some people that if I kept pushing through it, I'd feel better eventually, and so I tried that," he said. "I didn't not want to do it and possibly regret my decision, so I tried, but it just didn't work out the way I wanted it to. There was a steady decline from October to December and I was really struggling with my energy level."

But from all these setbacks has come a newfound goal.

"Right now, I'm looking at going back to school, because I want to get into the medical field," he said. "After being sick for a year, I want to kind of pursue a different avenue. I'm a finance major now but I'm not that passionate about it, but this is something that I have strong feelings for and I'd be interested in continuing that in that field. I'm excited about it."

And he has no regrets about what happened.

"Honestly, I exceeded my own expectations when I first got here," he said. "I wasn't sure if I'd start or not. I was really happy that I was able to do that and be an integral part of the program. I had a lot of good times and I learned a lot.

"The people that I was surrounded with on the team, and the coaching staff, they all really helped me grow."

Into a great player but an even better person.

Reach Chris Elsberry at Follow at Twitter/elsctpost.


The above originally appeared here.



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