Craig earns raves for Summer League play

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By Travis Jenkins

Now, not even his most fervent fan can give Torrey Craig any higher praise than the Denver Nuggets themselves have.

Craig, a graduate of Great Falls High School and USC-Upstate, is playing with the Denver Nuggets in the NBA Summer League. The team went 0-3 in the very short season (which has already concluded) but Craig, playing alongside multiple recent first round draft picks, has been one of the squad's most consistent players. In the opening game, a 102-99 loss to the Houston Rockets, Craig came up with seven points, six rebounds and an assist. On Sunday, in a 90-71 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves, Craig scored two points (on only two shots), had a pair of assists, a rebound, a steal and a block. He saved the best for last, though. Denver dropped an 82-81 decision to the Toronto Raptors, but Craig scored nine first-half points (on his way to 15), snared three boards, had two assists and a steal.

"Torrey Craig did a little bit of everything for us tonight," the team tweeted shortly after the game.

According to NBA.com, Nuggets Summer League Coach Micah Nori was effusive in his praise for Craig after the game.

"He was great, couldn't ask for anything more," Nori told the website of Craig's performance. "He's long, he's active, he kept (Toronto's) Fred (Vanfleet) in front of him and gave us some big shots, some big plays, rebounding. I just thought he had his best game of the summer league."

When the opportunity with the Nuggets presented itself, Craig put his season with the Gold Coast Rollers of the Queensland Basketball League on hold. This was Craig’s first season playing for that team and he flourished, averaging more than 30 points (the league leader by a large margin) and 11 rebounds (leading the team and among the league leaders) per game before signing with the Nuggets. In one of his last games with the Rollers, Craig exploded for 40 points, 13 rebounds and four assists in a loss to the Mackay Meteors.

Craig has been playing in Australia since 2014. At the conclusion of the most recent Australian NBL season, Craig was named the Defensive Player of the Year and was picked as the team MVP for the Brisbane Bullets in his first season playing with the franchise. The Bullets were undergoing a franchise re-launch after having ceased operations for a few years, so there were some struggles. The team went 10-17 in its Australian NBL return, but the off-season signing of Craig paid major dividends. He led the Bullets in minutes played, scoring (15.2 a game), rebounding (8.0 a game), steals (1.14 a game) and three-point shooting. Those numbers made him a second-team All-NBL selection.

Craig played with the Wellington Saints in the New Zealand NBL in the summer of 2016 (prior to the start of the Australian NBL season), averaging more than 20 points and 10 rebounds a game, earning him a spot on the league's "All-Star Five." The Saints won the league title. The previous year, Craig was named MVP of that league and the Saints might well have won another title, had Craig not suffered an injury that held him out of the finals.

Craig spent his first two professional seasons in the Australian NBL playing for the Cairns Taipans. As a collegiate player at USC-Upstate, he led the Atlantic Sun in scoring three straight years, a conference first. At Great Falls, where he was also a standout wide receiver on the football team, he helped the Red Devils to consecutive state title games in his junior and senior years, four region titles and was the Class A Player of the Year as a senior.