Torrey Craig Making Most of Opportunity in G-League and With Nuggets

On Tuesday night in Utah, it was finally Torrey’s turn. Torrey Craig was called off the bench by Nuggets coach Michael Malone. He would get in the game during the fourth quarter at Utah. While Craig stood at the scorer’s table waiting to get in the game, one couldn’t help but see two forces at work.

It was, all at once, a beginning and an end.

It was the official end of a basketball journey that saw him play overseas as he worked toward putting on an NBA uniform. It was a beginning because this season Craig is transitioning into someday being a full-time NBA player.

“It was special,” said Craig after the game. “It was something you dream of as a kid, try to get your first experience in the NBA, and tonight was mine.”

And it was made possible by Craig’s own hard work.

From carving out a standout career at South Carolina Upstate to playing well overseas, the 26-year old Craig has put in the time – and had the patience – to let the process play out.

“The guy has done everything we’ve asked him to do,” Malone said. “So, this is an opportunity, one, to reward him for all of this hard work and how effective he’s been in the G-League. And I have no hesitation to throw Torrey Craig in a game.”

Craig burst onto the Nuggets’ radar screen in summer league, where he put on a dazzling defensive display in two weeks in Las Vegas. That led to the Nuggets signing him to a two-way contract, a new type of deal that allows a team hold onto and develop a player using both the G-League and the NBA.

And Craig immediately starting ripping right through G-League competition.

He scored 24 points, with six rebounds, five assists, five steals and four blocks – in his first game. That was just the beginning. He’s had two games of over 30 points, is averaging 25.7 points in six games and has displayed a knack for scoring that he only was able to show in flashes during summer league.

And all the while, Craig has retained a solid defensive reputation by working hard on that end of the court.

“I knew I was going to do anything I needed to do for us to get wins,” said Craig, when asked about his high scoring average. “So, I probably couldn’t tell you that (I would score a lot) beforehand, because you kind of have to see how the game goes. But, it’s definitely a good experience and I’m just trying to get better and better every day.”

Craig has attacked his time in the G-League with a positive attitude.

“For him to put that effort forward, I think Torrey is an impact player in the G-League,” Malone said. “I said it up in training camp in Boulder, Torrey Craig is an NBA player, there is not a doubt in my mind.”

Craig will remain with the Nuggets for their game against the Chicago Bulls on Thursday night. He said he wasn’t nervous in getting his first taste of NBA action on Tuesday.

“It wasn’t too many nerves,” Craig said. “I’ve been playing basketball for a long time. So, I’m well-adjusted to the atmosphere, to the game of basketball.”

And his goal?

“Just try to get better every day, take no days for granted,” he said. “It’s a good experience being there. I’m able to try to lead the team and prepare and get ready for this league.”

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