Denver Nuggets’ Torrey Craig draws rave reviews at USA Basketball training camp
LAS VEGAS – In a practice filled with All-NBA players, All-Stars and up-and-coming stars, Torrey Craig has been easy to find throughout the USA’s training camp. He’s the guy who is usually guarding them.
On one possession, the Denver Nuggets’ defensive stalwart will cover Kemba Walker and in the ensuing play, he will be shadowing Jayson Tatum. After making stops on back-to-back possessions, he’s usually sprint at full speed to set a screen or get open for a three.
“[I’ve showed] a level of intensity, [I] play with it all of the time, no matter how tired [I am],” Craig explained before later adding. “No matter who I’m on, I just try to make sure they feel me the entire time. I know guys don’t like being guarded physical like that so I try to do whatever I need to do for the team to be successful."
Even when Craig is on the bench, he’s active. He’s encouraging his USA Select Teammates or yelling out defensive coverages. Craig’s veteran know-how and poise, especially on the defensive end, hasn’t gone unnoticed by his USA coaches or teammates.
“I love Torrey, he knows who he is. He's had a hard fight to get here and he's a tremendous competitor -- you can't have enough great competitors,” Jeff Van Gundy said on Wednesday. “We're so blessed to have him here. I really like him.”
Van Gundy is referring to Craig’s well-documented battle to finally make it in the NBA. After being undrafted, the small forward developed a reputation as a top defender in Australia and New Zealand before the Nuggets gave him an NBA opportunity in 2017. On a team filled with players within their first three years in the NBA, Craig has embraced being the team’s elder statesman at 28 years old.
“I’m definitely trying to be more vocal -- trying to use the experience I had this season [with the Nuggets] to help the young guys out,” Craig told Nuggets.com on Monday.
Twenty-one-year-old New York Knicks center Mitchell Robinson is one of several players who have enjoyed Craig’s leadership.
“He’s taught us a lot,” Robinson told Nuggets.com. “He’s been playing for a hot second now and although I don’t know him personally, what I’ve seen this week has been just amazing.”
He added, “He wants to make sure we’re good. He’s not one of those guys where he’s like ‘I don’t care what you guys do.’ He wants to be a leader. I feel that strongly from him and I appreciate him for that.”
Although Craig is currently on the Select Team, he wants to leave an impression in his debut for the Stars and Stripes. He hopes that will inspire a confident performance from his teammates against the USA Men’s Basketball Team on Friday.
“Playing for your country, you got pride, no matter what team you’re on. We just trying to come out and give it to them, let them know that we’re here to compete with them.”