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McFeely: NDSU's Grant Nelson about to enter new world

Hiring of agent expected to come soon, followed by workouts and ramp up to NBA Draft

The 2023 Summit League Basketball Championship
North Dakota State forward Grant Nelson, right, drives against Oral Roberts guard Max Abmas in the Summit League men's basketball championship Tuesday, March 7, 2023, at the Denny Sanford Premier Center and Sioux Falls, S.D.
Richard Carlson/Inertia

FARGO — This is all new to us, too.

While Grant Nelson and his family are working their way through the experience of possibly going from North Dakota State's basketball team to the NBA — seems daunting, no? — the rest of us are trying to figure out how this works.

Bison football players going from here to the NFL? Got that down pat.

Local kids being drafted or signed by Major League Baseball organizations? Check.

Area athletes being recruited and signed by big-time college programs? Been there, done that.


But the Devils Lake-to-Fargo-to-NBA train? Not so much.

We know where it'll start, but it's unclear where it'll end. Maybe back in Fargo.

Nelson, the 6-foot-11 junior for Dave Richman's Bison basketball team, has some decisions to make now that NDSU's season is finished. Nelson garnered attention from NBA teams beginning midseason, not long after a Twitter highlight video of him went viral.

Odd as it is to believe, that really happened. A Twitter video pushed scouts to take a look him. And they did.

"He will be given a chance, from what I've been told," an NBA-connected person told me. "NBA folks are more and more looking in unconventional places."

Things will start happening soon for Nelson. There is the potential for the next three months to be infinitely interesting.

They'll begin when he and his family decide on an agent to represent Nelson in the run-up to the NBA Draft, which is June 22 in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Reminder: Nelson can hire an NCAA-certified agent and declare for the draft as an underclassman, but return to college if his draft prospects don't look inviting.


That's the path high-scoring guard Max Abmas of Oral Roberts has taken twice and former South Dakota State guard Baylor Scheierman took last year. Abmas returned to ORU while Scheierman transferred to Creighton.

Nelson and his family have been meeting face-to-face with prospective agencies recently with the hope of hiring one in the next couple of weeks, possibly before the end of March.

Then things will boost into gear. There are several key dates on which to keep an eye once Nelson signs with an agent.

North Dakota State's Grant Nelson goes up for two against Omaha during their men's basketball game Thursday, Feb. 9, 2023, in Fargo.
Michael Vosburg/The Forum

  • NBA early entry deadline: The early entry deadline for underclassmen wishing to declare for the draft. Nelson will do this. April 23.
  • G League Elite Camp: A three-day event that gives draft prospects an opportunity to showcase their skills in front of scouts, coaches and front-office executives. A select number of players from the draft-eligible group will be invited to participate in the NBA Draft Combine later on in the week based on their performance in the NBA G League Elite Camp. Abmas and Scheierman were among the 44 invited players who participated last year in the Elite Camp. May 13-14 in Chicago.
  • NBA Draft Combine: About 75 players will be invited to the combine, which is a basketball version of the famed NFL combine. Players have interviews with NBA teams and participate in five-on-five games as well as shooting and strength and agility drills. Neither Abmas nor Scheierman were invited to the combine last year. Abmas received an invite in 2021, but performed poorly and pulled out of the draft. May 15-21 in Chicago.
  • NBA Draft Lottery: The teams that missed the playoffs the previous year participate in a lottery process to determine the draft order. May 16 in Chicago.
  • NCAA early entry withdrawal deadline: The early entry withdrawal deadline for underclassmen who wish to maintain their collegiate eligibility, set by the NCAA. Abmas and Scheierman were among the 112 players who withdrew from the draft at this point last year. May 31.
  • NBA draft: The draft is only two rounds, so Nelson will have to get good reviews to be confident he'll be a part of it. Thus far, he hasn't shown up on any popular mock drafts. June 22 in Brooklyn.

Another key date for Nelson is May 13, the day the NCAA transfer portal closes. If Nelson wants to keep all his options open for next season, he could enter the portal. If he withdraws from the draft and returns to college, he could transfer from NDSU to a different (presumably bigger) school. Or he could return to NDSU.
It's presumed there will be no shortage of transfer opportunities for Nelson if he withdraws from the draft. NBA teams, or his agents, might advise him to transfer to a major conference to test his skills against better competition. Hundreds of thousands of dollars might also be involved through name, image and likeness (NIL) opportunities.

Or Nelson could decide that being at NDSU, where he will have the ball in his hands on most possessions and have the offense run through him, is the best course.

Whatever the decisions, the next couple of months will be a literal game-changer for Nelson.

Once he decides on an agent, it's likely Nelson will be sent to an elite training facility for testing and workouts, much like Bison football players preparing for the NFL Draft. Where Nelson goes might depend on the agent, who sometimes sign deals to send their clients to specific training centers.


NBA super-agent Bill Duffy, for example, sends his players exclusively to the P3 training center and research lab in Santa Barbara, Calif. Chet Holmgren and many other well-known NBAers are represented by Duffy and work out at P3. You want to see the world Nelson could be entering, type "P3 Santa Barbara" into Google.

Agents will also line up workouts where NBA scouts, coaches and executives can get a closer look at prospects. Teams work out anywhere from a handful to dozens of prospects leading up to the draft, often multiple players at one time. Abmas and Scheierman each worked out for NBA teams last year.

Where it ends is anybody's guess. Even for Nelson. Asked late in the Bison's season about his future plans, Nelson said: "It's still uncertain what will happen. Hopefully I'm able to get with an agency this summer and get drafted. That's my main goal. But if that doesn't work out, I'm still unsure of what's to come."

Nelson is about to enter a new world. So will those in his orbit and those just looking on.

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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