After a Year Abroad, Iverson Eyes Spot on C's
WALTHAM, Mass. – Colton Iverson walked in front of the media on Tuesday and was greeted with a, “Colton, long time no see!”
The 7-footer replied in kind, “Yeah, it’s been a while.”
Boy, is he correct.
We haven’t seen Iverson, who was chosen by the Celtics with the 53rd overall pick of last year’s Draft, since July 12, 2013. That’s when he and the Celtics wrapped up their stay in the Orlando Pro Summer League, where Iverson averaged 5.0 points per game and 5.4 rebounds per game for the week.
Following summer league, it didn’t take long for Iverson to take his next step – a big one that came down far from Boston.
“I knew when I got drafted last year there was a pretty good chance I’d have to go overseas,” Iverson said following his first practice with the 2014 Celtics summer league team. “I was here working, trying to impress and do everything I possibly could to make the team, but I knew there was a slim chance, just with the roster.”
So Iverson took his game to Besiktas of the Turkish Basketball League (TBL). He signed a one-year contract with the Turkish power club on July 27, 2013.
Nearly one year later, Iverson is back in Boston trying to do what he couldn’t do a season ago: make the Celtics roster.
“I’m coming along with a different mindset that it’s mine for the taking and it’s all up to me,” he said with a confident tone in his voice.
There’s good reason for the big man to be confident. He’s a different player than he was when we last saw him.
Iverson used his year in Turkey to develop into more of an all-around player. He’s happy with the steps he took while averaging 7.2 PPG and 4.8 RPG over 47 games with Besiktas.
“My footwork was always something I wanted to improve on and I feel like I got a lot better on that over the year,” Iverson said. “My shooting touch is coming along pretty well. I worked on that a lot this year. And just overall playing pick-and-roll, defense, rebounding, doing the things I do well, being a physical presence in the lane.”
While playing in the TBL and the Eurocup for Besiktas, Iverson also learned a valuable lesson for a big man.
“I was averaging 4.5 fouls a game probably for the first two months,” Iverson said with a laugh, “so I had to learn to play without fouling.”
Still, he says, the physical nature of his game has not disappeared.
“I still play as physical here and that’s my style of play. That will never change,” he said. “I’m always going to be somebody that’s just a pest to play against. So I kind of take pride in the way I play: physical and a menace.”
Iverson believes that his game has expanded over the past year, but that growth didn’t come without a few bumps in the road. Adjusting to life in Eastern Europe was a struggle; a struggle great enough to make a 7-foot, self-proclaimed menace feel useless at times.
“The culture shock is something else,” Iverson said. “Just being in Turkey, where you can’t really communicate with [anyone]. I’m trying to go to a restaurant and order a chicken sandwich and I’m getting like lamb or something. It was tough, but I got used to it.”
At this point, it sounds like a year in Turkey was well worth the struggle for Iverson. He returned home as a stronger basketball player and a stronger person.
That’s why Iverson is primed to make a run at a spot on this team, a spot that he believes is his for the taking.