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Sunday, August 19 Sports

Former Fairfield star Nelson makes most of Summer League time

FAIRFIELD — He didn’t play much, but then, how many undrafted rookies get more than a brief look?

The NBA Summer League is a chance for a team’s draft picks to begin to get used to the professional game as well as players looking to get back into the league to show that organization that they still have the ability to compete at the highest level.

Guys like Fairfield guard Tyler Nelson? Well, you take each moment as it comes and you go out and try to make the most of it. And that’s what he did.

Nelson — the only player from the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference to be signed by an NBA club — the Minnesota Timberwolves, to play in the recent NBA Summer League, did whatever he could when his number was called.

He played in three of the Timberwolves’ five Summer League games, seeing just 14 total minutes. But in that brief time, Nelson felt that he showcased himself and proved that he could stand toe to toe with the best the NBA had to offer.

“It was great, being able to play for the Minnesota Timberwolves,” Nelson said Monday at Fairfield University’s Alumni Hall, where he was a special guest at Sydney Johnson’s youth summer camp. “It was an awesome opportunity to go down there (to Las Vegas) and have training camp for a week, learn a lot of new things, meet a lot of new guys.

“It was good to see where I stood in relation to all the other guys that are trying to make it to the NBA like me, so it was a great experience to be a part of that and it’s something I’d definitely like to try and do next year.”

In those three games and those 14 minutes, Nelson took just two shots, making one. He made both free throw attempts he took for a total of four points (1.3 per game). He also grabbed two rebounds, had one assist and one steal.

“I just tried to take advantage of the minutes they gave me. I wish I could have played more, everyone wises they could play more but I think I did well with what I got,” Nelson said. “I was only a rookie, there weren’t a lot of rookies unless you’re drafted, that are going to play a lot of minutes, especially in the NBA summer league.

“It’s going to be a lot of older guys that have bounced around in the league for a couple of years that are trying to make it, so, like I said, I was happy with what I did. It was a great learning experience and this is just the beginning, so it was a good time and I look forward to possibly doing it again next season.”

He did his best to maximize his exposure while getting minimum minutes. Hopefully, someone noticed.

“I just wanted to go out there and show teams what I could do” he said. “When I was out there I was making plays, I was making shots, I was kind of showing that I belonged, that was something I was trying to do, that was one of my focuses when I got there.”

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For now, Nelson is taking a well-deserved breather from basketball. He will work out at home in Massachusetts — sleeping in his own bed — for the next two or three weeks until the G League draft takes place. Formally known as the ‘D’ (Developmental) League, it is now sponsored by Gatorade — hence the G — and 27 of the 30 NBA teams have a squad.

“It was a hectic month and a half but I’m very grateful for it,” Nelson said. “I’m trying to figure out what I’m going to do over these next couple of weeks. Obviously, I have some G League interest.”

The G League plays a 50-game schedule, starting in November and the average salary is $35,000.

“If I decide to go that route, I’ll enter the draft, someone will pick me and I’ll go play for them,” Nelson said. “If not, if I get an offer from a team in Europe that’s too good to refuse, then I’ll take that.”

celsberry@ctpost.com

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