Denver Nuggets’ P.J. Dozier hopes to showcase ability with guidance from friend Torrey Craig
It’s a bright Saturday morning in the parking lots at Pepsi Center and P.J. Dozier is enjoying having a chance to watch several local Denver ballers at the Nuggets’ inaugural 3v3 tournament. Signed to a training camp contract in August, the 22-year-old has enjoyed his time in the Mile High City so far.
“I love the city, it's a beautiful city,” Dozier told Nuggets.com before adding moments later. “[I want to] continue to show that I belong and that I belong for a reason. I feel like I have a lot to show for -- a lot to bring to the table. It's just all about getting the opportunity and being prepared for it.”
As Dozier fights for one of the final spots on the Nuggets 15-man roster, he has an invaluable resource at his disposal—his good friend Torrey Craig. Both Dozier and Craig hail from the Columbia, South Carolina area and have closely followed each other’s careers despite being six years apart in age. According to Dozier, the guard grew up about a 45-minute drive away from Craig. Their high schools, Spring Valley and Great Falls, are separated by about 40 miles.
“I've known him for a long time with both of us being from South Carolina,” Dozier said. “He's a great guy. I'm excited to be here with him. It just worked out that way [us being on the same team] and I'm excited to have that guy and be able to go and ask questions.
“He's helped me from the time I've touched down here. I'm excited to be here, excited to have him as a teammate and also as a friend from a long time ago.”
Similar to Craig, prior to landing a multi-year contract in 2018, Dozier is trying to find his way in the NBA after not being taken in the 2017 draft. He was an elite high school recruit, earning McDonald’s All-American and South Carolina’s Mr. Basketball honors in 2015. Dozier showed incredible resilience during his time at Spring Valley, playing all four years with a torn ACL. Dozier struggled at times, shooting just 39.8 percent from the field and 57.9 percent from the free-throw line. Still, his poise and leadership were evident during his two years at South Carolina, helping spark the Gamecocks’ surprise run to the Final Four in 2017.
Craig believes Dozier’s pedigree puts the guard further ahead than his own journey in sticking in the NBA. Craig starred in the smaller Atlantic Sun Conference for USC Upstate before playing overseas in Australia and New Zealand for four years. The 28-year-old points to Dozier’s two two-way contracts with the Thunder and Celtics and believes the 6-foot-6 guard is knocking at the NBA’s door.
“I kind of feel like he's got a feel for what he needs to do in order to have success or get a chance in this league,” Craig told Nuggets.com. “Everything is a process. It's all about being in the right situation at the right time. Hopefully, he can find that.”
In another parallel to Craig, Dozier is hoping defense will be his calling card in the league. He sees himself as a big point guard who can also guard shooting guards and small forwards.
In order to earn a roster spot, it’s the other side of the court where he’ll have to make strides. He showed some encouraging signs in the G League last season as he shot 45.6 percent from the field with the Maine Red Claws on his way to being tapped a G League All-Star.
“I feel like I have a lot to bring to the table and it's all about just having the opportunity,” Dozier said. “Whatever I need to do, that's what I'm trying to do.”
In addition, Dozier will have to prove he’s a good fit culturally on a hard-working, tight-knit Nuggets team.
“I just told him how we having winning habits. All of the guys, our chemistry, we get along well. There's no drama in the locker room, no drama outside of the locker room,” Craig said. “We just want to win, that's the most important thing for us.
Craig is proud to see how receptive his fellow South Carolinian has been so far.
“Playing your role [is important] and there's a lot of little things I was trying to tell him that would help him out,” he said. “I think he understood, and he's been doing a good job.”