by Lenny Megliola, Globe correspondent
NE-10 Hall of Famer Nancy Smith, '83, (right) with NE-10 Commissioner Julie Ruppert (left) and Brendan Sullivan, Director of Intercollegiate Athletics at Stonehill during a ceremony at halftime of Saturday's women's basketball game. (PHOTO BY Bert Lane)
Nancy Smith grew up with two older sisters in Quincy. Occasionally, Susan and Diane, eight and six years older, respectively, schooled their kid sister at the local playground in whatever sport they played.
Looking back now, at age 50, Smith realizes those days set in motion her own athletic career.
Her sisters were fine athletes, but Smith took her game to a much higher level.
"They paved the way for me," she said. "I had more opportunities."
None were wasted. On Saturday she reached her highest point, with her formal induction into the Northeast-10 Conference Hall of Fame at halftime of the women's basketball game between Pace University and host Stonehill College.
"I'm thrilled," says the soft-spoken Smith, "but it will be bittersweet because Susan died of cancer on Jan. 6." She was 58.
A former three-sport captain, Nancy Smith was already a member of the athletic hall at Stonehill, the first female inducted, in 1989.
Basketball took an early hold on her.
"It became pretty much my passion." She took her game to Archbishop Williams High School in Braintree because North Quincy High was under construction. "I would've had to gone to double sessions. My parents thought it would be best if I went to Archbishop Williams. Some of my friends had gone there."
A 5-foot-2 guard, she averaged over 20 points per game her senior year, earning a scholarship to Stonehill. She had been recruited by several Division 2 schools, as well as Yale. "But once I took my visit to Stonehill I fell in love with the campus and the basketball program."
Smith became more of a distributor than scorer in college. "They relied on me more for assists," said Smith, who averaged 5.8 assists per game in her four-year career, still a school record. Her 604 assists rank sixth-best in conference history.
"I was fine with that as long as we won. And we did." Stonehill won at least 20 games in each of Smith's four seasons, advancing to the postseason three times.
Smith was a three sport student-athlete at Stonehill with the women's basketball team, softball and women's soccer teams.
"We played a fast break style," said Smith, "Our center, Ann Mallory, would get the rebound and give me the ball. She'd run the floor and I'd give her the ball. We scored a lot of points that way."
Stonehill won its first conference title in her senior year, 1983. "It was my final year," she said. "You want to get everything out of it as you can."
Smith was a two-time Division 2 second team All-American in softball, a shortstop known for her glove work. She batted second in the order and got on base a lot, scoring a school-record 27 runs in her junior season.
"I was short. I had a small strike zone," she kidded. Her 73 runs scored are fifth-best at Stonehill. "But my forte was defense."
Smith began playing soccer for the first time during her sophomore year. It came about in a curious way. "We had a softball league in the fall, and the soccer field was behind the softball field," she said. "Our leftfielder said, "Why don't we play soccer in the fall.' I figured that it would be a great way to get some running in before basketball season."
The next year, Smith was on the soccer team. "I hadn't played soccer before, but I was a pretty good athlete."
But since she was on basketball scholarship, Smith had to get the OK from basketball coach Paula Sullivan. One day Sullivan almost wished she hadn't given Smith permission.
"I played forward before moving to goalie," said Smith. "One day, Paula was a substitute soccer coach. I ran into a defender who was a lot bigger. I wound up flat on the ground. Paula started yelling, 'That?s my point guard!' The next year I was the goalie."
Sullivan, now the college's athletic director, said in a prepared statement that Smith's hall of fame induction is "a fitting capstone of recognition for her athletic career. I stand in awe of her achievement."
A Walpole resident, Smith is a projects manager for Keane Inc., a Boston computer company. She's taken up golf for fun. "On a good day I'm a 10-handicap."
Smith attends Stonehill games occasionally. Her time at the school brings back wonderful memories. "It keeps coming back to, if you do things that you love with the people you love at a place you love, good things happen," she said.