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McFeely: Grant Nelson gets a highlight dunk at NBA Draft Combine, meets with nine interested teams

North Dakota State star is mixing in meetings with teams that might be interested in drafting him while at the NBA Draft Combine

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Grant Nelson of North Dakota State and Devils Lake, N.D., plays defense at the NBA Draft Combine at Wintrust Arena in Chicago.
Scott Comeau / Ballislife.com

CHICAGO — In the guard-dominated scrimmages at the NBA Draft Combine, North Dakota State's Grant Nelson didn't see the ball come his way a lot during two days at Wintrust Arena.

But he did take advantage of an opportunity Thursday in the combine's final scrimmage.

Nelson took an inbounds pass and slashed to the basket for a two-handed dunk to help his Team Richman to a victory over Team Bailey.

The combine is a large audition for the prospects who were invited here like Nelson. The players are measured, tested and worked out in scrimmages so team executives and coaches can decide whether or not to spend a valuable draft pick on them.

There are also job interviews.


Teams request meetings with players to get to know them, ask them questions, decipher their makeup.

"You sit with them so they can meet you and ask you questions to kind of figure out your personality," Nelson said this week.

That includes the Devils Lake (N.D.) High School graduate.

Nelson had meetings Wednesday with the Milwaukee Bucks, Portland Trail Blazers and Dallas Mavericks. He was also scheduled to meet with the Miami Heat, Memphis Grizzlies, Los Angeles Clippers, Cleveland Cavaliers, New York Knicks and Denver Nuggets.

After the Combine concludes, Nelson and others represented by the WME Sports agency will hold a pro day next week in California for NBA scouts and executives.

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North Dakota State's Grant Nelson checks into the game at an NBA Draft Combine scrimmage on Wednesday, May 17, at Wintrust Arena in Chicago.
Scott Comeau / Ballislife.com

All of this will be packed into a window before May 31, less than two weeks away, when Nelson and his team have to decide whether the 6-foot-10 forward will stay in the draft and hope to be selected June 22 or return for another year of college.

"At that point in time, we'll have enough data and feedback to determine where he really stands in this draft and whether he should, in fact, stay in," said Nelson's agent, Justin Haynes.

Ah, yes. There is another avenue for Nelson. He entered the NCAA transfer portal earlier this month, meaning he could move to any school if he decides to not stay at NDSU. Multiple sources say most of the top programs in college basketball have contacted Nelson since he entered the portal.


If all of this seems chaotic to the outside world, it's not to the 21-year-old Nelson. He said more than once this week that the process since he declared for the draft has been "fun."

"It's been good. It's been a lot of fun. I'm just out here getting better every day and I feel this is a great place to meet new guys and get my name out there in front of NBA people and really show them that I can compete against the best and with the best," Nelson said.

This week has been mostly good.

Monday saw Nelson get measured and go through drills so the NBA could have objective metrics on him and all the players.

For the record, Nelson's anthrometric measurements included a 9-inch hand length and a 9.5-inch hand width. He officially is 6-10 and 223.4 pounds. His standing reach is 8 feet, 10.5 inches with a wingspan of 7 feet. Those numbers compare similarly to the other power forwards who were measured.

Nelson's standing vertical jump was 32 inches and his maximum vertical was 35.5 inches, both solid among power forwards at the Combine who tested.

It was in the agility and running portion of the testing where Nelson stood out.

His 9.99 seconds in the agility drill was the fastest of the Combine and third-best in Combine history. That he did it at 6-10 was the buzz of Wintrust Arena. Nelson's 3.21 seconds in the three-quarter court sprint was also impressive and faster than many smaller players, including point guards.


Some of that success can be attributed to Nelson's training regimen in Santa Barbara, Calif., with other Combine players represented by WME Sports. Nelson's agent, Justin Haynes, said the plan was to have Nelson remain in Santa Barbara and not miss development days instead of flying around the country to meet with teams and do individual workouts.

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Grant Nelson of North Dakota State (78) runs up the court at the NBA Draft Combine at Wintrust Arena in Chicago on Wednesday May 17.
Scott Comeau / Ballislife.com

"Going back to when we met with Grant when he was finishing his season at NDSU, we're very conservative in our approach and that we wanted everything that Grant did to come with thought and be thoughtful and be something he really wanted to do," Haynes said. "Are we going to pull him out of Santa Barbara and fly to San Antonio and take two days, two and a half days out of player development to have him go for one workout? Or is it more worthwhile to kind of continue to stack these days in Santa Barbara, stay in routine, stay committed to the program and come to Chicago feeling like alright, we got every one of those 35 days in we could? We're as ready as we could possibly be. We're as ready as any other player in this process.

"We'll see if it served him well," Haynes said. "We thought strongly, let's make it all about the Combine. Let's see how we do here."

So far, despite a relatively quiet first scrimmage on Wednesday in which Nelson scored six points on 2-of-6 shooting, returns are favorable.

After all, nine NBA teams requested job interviews with Nelson.

Mike McFeely is a columnist for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead. He began working for The Forum in the 1980s while he was a student studying journalism at Minnesota State University Moorhead. He's been with The Forum full time since 1990, minus a six-year hiatus when he hosted a local radio talk-show.
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