Is Emanuel Terry the Next Torrey Craig?

LAS VEGAS – The stories are so similar Emanuel Terry had to be asked.

Was he familiar with Torrey Craig’s tale? That of a hard-working – and very impactful – defensive-minded player making an impression during summer league, leading to a two-way contract with the Nuggets last season.

“I didn’t really know his story like that, but I knew he was a great player,” said Terry, after breaking out as a defensive difference-maker in the Nuggets summer league victory on Friday night. “He’s a cool guy. Me and him talked a few times. It’s a blessing of people’s backgrounds and how they come up. They get the chance to prove themselves. All I wanted was a chance to prove myself.”

Terry is taking that chance and is running with it.

He started on Friday night for the Nuggets in their summer league opener. Prior to that, through the five-day summer league mini-camp, he’d shown coach Jordi Fernandez tons of energy and effort on defense. He was rewarded by being on the court with the opening five against the Timberwolves.

And that came as a surprise to a humble Terry, who said he had no idea it was coming until the day of the game.

“I really didn’t,” he said. “I was just going with the flow. I wasn’t like, ‘Coach, am I going to start?’ or anything like that. I came here with a chip on my shoulder, like anything they want me to do I’m willing to do it.”

Terry’s work ethic made a quick impression with Fernandez and the coaching staff.

“That high energy,” Fernandez said. “I think everybody sees it. He’s got that game-changing ability, just rolling hard to the rim to start quarters or after timeouts, he rolled really hard and those plays – maybe you’re down a little bit – just bring you up. And he’s been on-point, that’s what he’s done. He came here with no expectations, just worked hard and he deserved it. I’m happy with him.”

And, like Craig, Terry knows he will make an NBA team through his work on defense.

He was undrafted but not unknown out of Division II Lincoln Memorial in Harrogate, Tenn. Terry’s athletic feats jumped off the screen on film, but it was his ability at 6-9, 220 pounds, to defend multiple positions that caught the attention of NBA scouts. That ability was best displayed in a game against Division I Butler, where he was forced to guard smaller, quick players, and excelled in taking on the challenge.

“I take pride in my defense, I really do,” Terry said. “I can switch one through five, and my athleticism goes great with it. So, I try my best to get better and I try to guard the best players.”

Now, it is about being consistent.

“I know I’m going to keep getting better every day,” Terry said. “I have great teammates, a great coaching staff. I know they are going to prepare me to play the best that I can.”

Christopher Dempsey: christopher.dempsey@altitude.tv and @chrisadempsey on Twitter