Sept. 18, 2006
SANTA CLARA, Calif. - Santa Clara University opened its arms and welcomed 1996 graduate and two-time reigning NBA Most Valuable Player Steve Nash back to campus Monday afternoon as Nash served as the key note speaker for the University's Convocation ceremony. The University also honored Nash by unveiling a banner that will hang permanently in the Leavey Center and hanging his No. 11 jersey in the rafters at the event, making Nash the first Santa Clara student-athlete to receive the honor.
"This is obviously very exciting for me," Nash said in a press conference before the ceremony. "I don't get a chance to come back to school often, so for me to be here is just great, and coupled with the huge honor it is to be able to be acknowledged for my career is amazing and very humbling,".
Nash, recently named one of Time magazine's 100 most influential people, is known for giving back to the community. He founded the Jim Jennings Memorial Endowment Fund, a memorial established in honor of a volunteer staff member at SCU who served the Broncos basketball team for more than 20 years. In 2001, he founded The Steve Nash Foundation "to aid underprivileged children in their health, personal development, education, and enjoyment of life."
In his address to Santa Clara students, staff, and faculty at Convocation, Nash thanked his Santa Clara coaches and teammates for their encouragement and the opportunity to play basketball for the Broncos. He also expressed how much it meant to him to be given a chance by Broncos head coach Dick Davey to play Division I basketball. Nash stressed to the students the importance of taking advantage of the Santa Clara experience and making their four years the most memorable time of their lives.
"I couldn't have gone to a more perfect University for me, and I think that in many ways everyone can find that in Santa Clara," Nash said in his address. "I owe so much to my experience here. All of you guys really need to take advantage of this and make the most of your opportunity here. I urge you to really get involved, to be balanced, to do well in school, and make as many friends as possible."
Nash entered Santa Clara as a freshman in 1992 and made an immediate impact on the court, helping the Broncos earn a spot in the NCAA Tournament that season and leading them to an upset of fifth-ranked Arizona in the first round. Nash would go on to earn All-West Coast Conference honors three times and back-to-back WCC Player of the Year awards (1994-95 and 1995-96) in his career. His teams won the WCC Tournament once and twice captured the WCC regular season title. The team advanced to the NCAA Tournament three times in Nash's four seasons at Santa Clara.
After Nash's address, Santa Clara University Director of Athletics and Recreation Dan Coonan and Davey announced the unveiling of two banners honoring Nash. A banner hung at the north end of the Leavey Center shows a photo of Nash during his playing days at Santa Clara and another photo of him receiving his second NBA MVP trophy for the Phoenix Suns. His No. 11 jersey was then unveiled at the opposite end of the arena.
While Nash is the first Santa Clara player to have his jersey raised to the rafters, former standout Nick Vanos (1981-85) was the first SCU men's basketball player to have his number retired. Vanos, a center for the Broncos, played two seasons in the NBA after graduating from Santa Clara before his life was tragically cut short in a plane crash on August 16, 1987. His No. 32 jersey currently hangs in a framed case in the southwest corner of the Leavey Center.
The convocation marked the beginning of SCU's 156th academic year and the start of classes for the fall 2006 quarter. The event, which honors staff, students and faculty, caps two days of "Welcome Weekend" celebrations that welcome freshman students to SCU's Mission Campus.