By: Monty Mosher
Nevell Provo's basketball ambitions took him away from Nova Scotia at the age of 13. But his mind never strayed far from his home province, particularly his home community of North Preston.
His hard work and natural talents took him to Pickering Ridge Secondary School in Ontario, the national junior basketball team – which saw him attend the 2015 under-19 World Cup -- and for three seasons with the Loyola-Maryland Greyhounds, an NCAA Division I school in Baltimore playing in the Patriot League.
The six-foot point guard played in 59 games over his three years, scoring a total of 72 points. But he played in only 12 games last year, making only one start.
By the end of the season, Provo was contemplating a change. The team had a 9-22 record in 2017-18 and subsequently made a coaching change.
"I weighed my options," Provo said this week. "The idea of coming back to Canada came to mind once I realized I could get two more years of playing and potentially earn a masters' degree. That made sense for me."
Finance program crucial
Where he landed had to offer a degree program in finance. Provo carried a 3.6 grade-point average at Loyola-Maryland and has always been focused on academics.
It gave head coach Jonah Taussig the potential to bring an NCAA-tested point guard into a Saint Mary's Huskies program on the rise.
"He's a great kid," said Taussig, the point guard on the last Huskies team to win a national championship in 1999. "He's a great player, student and does a lot in the community.
"I think playing his final two years at home in front of friends and family was important. He's a talented player, but also brings a lot of leadership and is a great locker-room guy. I'm looking forward to coaching him and getting the team together."
Getting back into his home area is a big part of his decision for Provo. He grew up watching Final 8 basketball tournaments in the city. The Saint Mary's home gym has special memories as well. He watched friends and relatives play there.
"When I was in my younger years, age 8-10, that's all I knew," he said of local hoops. "I would go to Metro Centre and see the Final 8 or just go over to SMU and see one of my cousins play. That was the level I envisioned myself playing at.
Childhood dream come true
"Once I got older and realized NCAA Division I was the highest level, I think my goals kind of jumped to that. But it was a childhood dream to play here, for sure. It was always a place I envisioned myself playing in as a younger kid."
The name should be plenty familiar to Nova Scotia basketball fans. His cousin, Davonte, played five seasons at St. Francis Xavier and another cousin, Daneesha, plays at Utah. His uncle, Dwayne, played football for the Huskies and in the CFL and attended training camp with the New England Patriots.
Nevell Provo said he has no regrets about his time in U.S. basketball.
"It was everything I imagined it would be," he said. "It was a dream, and I accomplished that dream. If anything, it adds more to my story. It adds more to my experience and my level as a basketball player."
He thinks he can bring a great deal to the Huskies for the next two years.
"I bring an elite level of leadership," he said. "I like to think of myself as a coach on the floor. And experience, I played at the highest level down there in the U.S. I played against Kansas and Florida State -- all the biggest schools. Also, I have international experience with Team Canada."
Two Division I transfers on Huskies
The Huskies enter next season with AUS and U Sports top rookie Nikita Kasongo, a guard, as one of the key pieces. All-star guard Johneil Johnson, a Lake Echo native transferring from Regina, and small forward Jelani Mofford, an Ontario native who played in the NCAA at UNC Greensboro, are new to the mix.
Taussig expects the team to be small but fast and have scoring throughout the lineup.
"We're definitely guard-heavy and we've got a lot of talent, so I feel I could be a crucial piece to bring all that together," said Provo, who would like to handle the basketball, but take on more of the scoring load. "We've got potential on paper to get to the Final 8 and we hope to win a championship. SMU hasn't won in a while, so that would be something big."
He had good support from home when he played in Baltimore. His parents came to visit a time or two. But he hopes he can bring some fans out to Saint Mary's now that he's back home.
"You can't match that feeling of pride and community," he said. "That factored into my decision, for sure.
"A lot of people want to get out to the games. They are all excited. They haven't seen me in a while and they all want to see what I can do."
The Huskies went 14-6 last season and entered the AUS tournament as the third seed. But they were upset by Memorial in the quarter-finals.