A trip back in time with former Livingston Lancer Steve Nisenson

By Steve Sears


For former Livingston High School and Hofstra University basketball star, Steve Nisenson, it has been a wonderful, accomplished life.


In addition to being a Lancer star player from the late 1950’s to the early 1960’s, going on to become a Hofstra University Flying Dutchmen record-setter, and then being an inductee to multiple Halls of Fame, in the end Nisenson values two things over everything else.


“Family and friends,” Nisenson said. “If my life ended tomorrow, I would be so satisfied with that. I would not change anything. I really have a wonderful family and a tremendous number of wonderful friends. I said to my wife not too long ago, ‘I do not know how many chapters are left in the book, but I want to fill up the pages as best I can and just appreciate each and every day.”

His is a “book” of fond memories.

Nisenson, 81, in his early years lived in both Newark and New York City, and he eventually moved with his family to Livingston when he was 13. “My father put up a rickety basket in our driveway,” he recalled. “I never played basketball until I was 13. So, from the time I was 13 until I was cut by the (New York) Knicks at age 21 in 1965, basketball was my life.”


Nisenson led from his guard position a Livingston Lancer ballclub that he said was “a very competitive team. And we had winning seasons, for sure.” During his career, he set as a junior what was then the point scoring record for one game with 34, while leading the team to its first ever appearance in the Essex County Tournament.


After graduation, Nisenson planned to attend Temple University, but chose Hofstra University instead. While leading his team in scoring each of his three seasons there, he and the Flying Dutchmen made two NCAA Division II Tournament trips and in 1964 won an NCAA Small College Tournament regional title. That same junior season, Nisenson was named Middle Atlantic Conference northern college division Most Valuable Player, led the nation in free throw percentage, and was the first player in the history of basketball – high school, college, or professional – to shoot over 90% from the charity stripe in a season when shooting 200 or more free throws.


His final season at Hofstra, he averaged 27.7 points per game, and finished his career with 2,222 points. He currently holds the record for most free throws made in a single game and season, his career average of 26.8 ppg is second all-time for the Flying Dutchmen (now called the Hofstra Pride), and he was named a 1963 – 64 and 1964 – 65 First Team All-American.


The New York Knicks made Nisenson a fifth-round selection in the 1965 NBA Draft, but he was eventually cut, and he also turned down an opportunity to play with American Basketball Association’s Kentucky Colonels. However, he did win a gold medal for Team USA while competing at the 1965 Maccabiah Games in Tel Aviv, Israel.


He cherishes the memory. “That was a great experience. To see Israel in its infancy, and basketball-wise to meet a lot of nice people, it was one of the great things about my career.”


After serving as a Hofstra assistant coach for four seasons, Nisenson – who is a member of The Big “L” Club (the official booster for Livingston High School sports) Hall of Fame, the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, the Colonial Athletic Association Hall of Fame,  and the Hofstra Athletics Hall of Fame (his number is retired) – earned his master’s degree in guidance from C.W. Post College, and worked in admissions for the school for 15 years. Afterwards, he spent 40 years during the summer teaching basketball at Camp Wayne for Boys in Pennsylvania.


Nisenson and his wife, Fran, who will be married 55 years on May 29, are parents to two sons, David and Brett, and they have three grandchildren, Caleb, Derek, and Ty.


“The trophies and plaques break and gather dust,” Nisenson said, “but the memories you have for a lifetime.”


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