As an only child growing up in Levittown, Kevin Dexter said he often had to “create my own fun, in a sense.”
To that end, shooting hoops outside his house became an episode of ESPN’s “SportsCenter,” with Dexter describing the highlights in his head.
“It all started when I was about 5 years old,” Dexter said of calling the action. “I would put the TV on mute and read the lineup for the Yankees game. I decided then that I was going to make this my dream.”
Now a 21-year-old Hofstra University senior in the school’s broadcasting program, Dexter has been struggling a bit to update his resume and put together demo clips.
He’s been a little busy -- as the radio color commentator for the New York Islanders during the team’s Stanley Cup Playoffs run.
Since 2010, Hofstra and the Islanders have partnered to give the school’s students a chance to participate in team broadcasts, both on-air and in technical roles. Longtime Islanders radio play-by-play voice Chris King has been impressed with the Hofstra students’ professionalism from the start. But more people have gotten a chance to hear them recently.
All Islanders games are broadcast on Hofstra’s WRHU 88.7 FM. But Thursday’s Game 5 of the Islanders-Pittsburgh Penguins first-round series was simulcast by ESPN New York 98.7 FM, and Saturday night’s game was picked up by WFAN 101.9 FM/660 AM.
“What people don’t understand is that these games are not being produced by those stations,” King said before Saturday night’s game, in-between studying highlights of past games playing on the Nassau Coliseum scoreboard’s big screen above the rink. “All of these games are being produced back at the Hempstead studio by students.”
Just 1:19 into the first period, Penguins coach Dan Bylsma calls his only timeout of the game. Dexter works crisply off King’s call, talking about how at the morning skate the Islanders were hoping to get pucks in front of the net and put early pressure on their opponents.
Dexter’s hard work hasn’t gone unnoticed. On Friday he was announced as runner-up for the Jim Nantz Award -- named for the famous CBS sportscaster and sponsored by the Sportscasters Talent Agency of America.
Dexter is getting a leg up on his broadcasting career, but he’s not the only one. He was joined Saturday by junior Mike Sullivan, 20, from Haverhill, Mass., who covered the Penguins locker room for the series; junior Rob Joyce, 21, from Coventry, Conn., who was responsible for the Islanders locker room; and senior Dan Hilton, 21, of Bangor, Pa., who worked the postgame news conference.
“This has been a coming-out party for the Islanders, but it’s also been a coming-out party for us,” Joyce said of the student broadcasters’ recent exposure. “If you give us a chance, you’ll know that we’re not just a bunch of college kids messing around.”
As Hilton walked down the 200 Section from the play-by-play booth to ice level before Saturday’s Game 6, an usher yelled to him, “We can do it!”
The Isles bowed out of the playoffs with an overtime loss Saturday.
But the Hofstra broadcasters had already proven that, yes, they could do it.