On Friday, amid a blistering second half rally that saw the Racers erase a double-digit deficit in their OVC tournament semifinal match-up against Eastern Kentucky, the fouling out of senior guard Dexter Fields with 1:18 left in the game seemed inconsequential. But after Cameron Payne’s last-second heave clanged off the rim, the gravity of that fifth foul became apparent: 23-year-old Fields’ career as a Racer was over.
The goodbyes started two weeks ago at the team’s final home game of the season against Morehead State. Before the game, the three-point specialist walked out to center court to bask in RacerNation’s adulation, surrounded by loved ones, including his two-year-old daughter Iyana.
Fields’ girlfriend, Monique Austin, says Iyana has made him a better basketball player.
“He always says whatever he does affects Iyana," Austin said. "So he wants to do his best for her and be a good example.”
Dexter himself says his daughter’s enthusiasm has helped his ability to shrug off losses.
“It helped me a lot learning that every time we lose a game, I put that into perspective, cause I can’t walk around moping around," Fields said. "I just gotta go into the next game, because whether I like it or not, she don’t care that we just lost that game.”
In the lead-up to the OVC tournament, Dexter’s younger teammates only talked of getting a conference championship for their departing leader.
“We get this championship, man, it’ll open up so many more doors for him for when he’s trying to find another job to play at," said junior forward Jarvis Williams.
“We all got one goal and that’s to send Dex out as champion," said junior guard T.J. Sapp. "That’s the type of team we have here.”
Dexter, though, wanted to win it for the younger guys.
“I’m just worried about getting these guys – some guys on the team who have never really played for a championship, who have never won a ring, and I’ve got two of them," Fields said.
Coach Steve Prohm says this is indicative of Dexter’s humility as a team leader.
“For a senior to be the lone senior, you could do a lot of different things," Prohm said. "You could think about me, me, me, trying to get individual stats, thinking about playing. And all Dexter’s wanted to do is win.”
Originally from Palatka, Fla., Dexter played his high school and AAU ball in Orlando before spending a year at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Dexter says he transferred to Murray State as a conscious decision to get away from the bigger cities to which he was accustomed.
“It’s fun to be in the city where you got bright lights, where you got all this activity, but I like it here cause it keeps me out of trouble," Fields said. "In Murray, the only way you can get into trouble is if you go looking for trouble. Trouble won’t find you.”
Set to graduate Murray State with a degree in advertising, Dexter says he’s not currently thinking about taking his game to the next level. But he says whatever path he chooses, the lessons he’s taken away from his time at MSU will have him prepared.