The late Nick Susi was your classic “overachiever,” says former University of Maine basketball teammate Peter Gavett.
“He would always play against people a lot bigger than he was and he would outrebound them,” recalled Gavett. “People thought because he wasn’t real tall he would be kind of a pushover.”
“But when they played against him, they found him to be just the opposite. He was very tough, very determined, very competitive,” added Gavett.
“He wasn’t a mean player but he never backed down from anybody,” said former Maine coach Skip Chappelle.
Susi, a former Maine Central Institute of Pittsfield standout, stood around 6-foot-5.
Susi, who died of an apparent heart attack Monday at the age of 53, is the University of Maine’s sixth all-time leading rebounder with 756 in 70 games for an average of 10.8 per game.
He was the all-time leader when he graduated in ’72.
Buckfield’s Paul Bessey was a co-captain with Susi for two years. They co-captained the 1970-71 team under Gib Philbrick and the following year’s team with Chappelle at the helm.
It’s the only time the same players have ever co-captained a Maine men’s basketball team two years in a row, pointed out Gavett.
“That tells you something about their leadership qualities,” said Gavett.
“As far as our personalities were concerned, we were quite opposite,” said Bessey. “But with his personality and mine, I think we ended up being pretty good leaders.”
Bessey said Susi “went a long ways as far as an athlete and a basketball player [is concerned].”
Bessey added that in addition to Susi’s rebounding prowess, he anchored their team defense.
Maine held its opponents to 65 points or less 16 times in 25 games during his 15-10 senior year.
“He wasn’t the most talented player in the world but he certainly played well above his capabilities thanks to his heart and determination. He was a great team player,” said Gavett.
As intense as he was on the court, Susi was described by Bessey as a “happy-go-lucky” guy off the hardwood.
“He lived a short life but he lived it to the fullest,” said Bessey.
“He lived life every day and he had fun doing it. He enjoyed people,” concurred Gavett.
Chappelle said Susi was “special. You never walked away from him without a smile on your face. He had the ability to do that. His cup was never half-empty, it was always half-full. It was great to be around him.”
Susi was also a proud parent who thoroughly enjoyed accompanying wife Martha to watch son Nate and daughter Abbi participate in athletics.
Ironically, Nate chose another winter sport: hockey.
Nate Susi was an outstanding hockey player at Bangor’s John Bapst High School and displayed the same grit and determination as his father.
His former hockey coach, the late Ray Thibodeau, once said Nate Susi “shows up to win, even at practice. He has that kind of intensity. He never takes a day off.”
Same with daughter Abbi, who was an exceptional basketball player at Old Town High. To no one’s surprise, rebounding was one of her fortes.
You didn’t have to know Nick Susi well to like him.
He was affable and knowledgeable and took a genuine interest in people. He loved sports.
He will be missed.
Larry Mahoney can be reached at 990-8231, 1-800-310-8600 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.