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Nuggets, Craig begin summer league play Friday

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Three games will be televised

By Travis Jenkins

He won’t be in the basketball gyms at Great Falls or USC-Upstate, but local fans will be able to watch Torrey Craig this week.

In June, Craig was signed by the Denver Nuggets to play on their NBA Summer League team in Las Vegas. The Summer League is a short exhibition season, with teams primarily made up of rookies, free agents and international players looking for their shot to impress NBA teams. Craig will be part of a 14-man roster that will include two of Denver’s 2016 first round draft picks, Juancho Hernangomez and Malik Beasley and its two newest rookie additions, Tyler Lydon and Monte Morris, who were chosen with the 24th and 51st picks in the most recent NBA Draft, respectively. The team announced the signing on Twitter, saying “One of the top defensive players in Australia, Torrey Craig, joins us for a run in the desert.”

Because of his opportunity with the Nuggets, Craig has put his season with the Gold Coast Rollers of the Queensland Basketball League on hold. This was Craig’s first season playing for the team and he was called the biggest signing in club history by team officials. He was more than living up to that billing, 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 had 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) and the Spartans made their first two Division I era post-season appearances during Craig's time at the school. 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, four region titles and was the Class A Player of the Year as a senior.

The Denver Nuggets Summer League team opens play this Friday against the Houston Rockets. That game will be aired on NBA TV starting at 10 p.m. eastern time. Sunday, the Nuggets face the Minnesota Timberwolves in a game that will air on ESPN2 at 6:30 p.m. They then play Monday at 8 p.m. on ESPNU against the Toronto Raptors.