Posted Online: Oct. 30, 2011, 8:56 pm
Former Augie standout Nelson jump-starting pro career in Latvia
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By Tom Johnston, firstname.lastname@example.org
It's that time of year when Kyle Nelson knows he should be in a gym playing basketball. After all, that's what he has done for the major part of his life.
And even though he graduated from Augustana College and won't be getting ready for a CCIW title defense with the Vikings, Nelson is still getting ready for what he is hoping is the next step in his basketball career. Nelson will leave tonight for Latvia where he hopes to hook on with a professional team in the country's top professional league.
"I would love to play as long as I possible can," Nelson said from his home in Deerfield late Saturday night. "It would be great to see the world. I wouldn't complain if I end up in different countries every year. When basketball at Augustana ended, I never thought I'd being going to Latvia. It's a great experience and a tremendous opportunity. I'm going to take full advantage of every basketball opportunity I can, no matter what country it is."
The 22-year-old who led the 27-4 Vikings in scoring (13.7) and rebounding (6.6) averages last season
is hoping this works out in his favor.
Technically, he is going over without a contract. He said he had one team in the Latvian Basketball League ready to sign him once he got overseas, but financial difficulties shelved that deal. But since that team had shown enough interest in him, the team in Jurmala called.
"They want to make sure I'm 6-9 like we say I am," joked Nelson. "We should end up getting a deal done."
And even if things with Jurmala don't pan out, Nelson said there are other options for him that can be explored. He knows how lucrative a pro career can be in Europe from talking to Rock Island's Pete Mickeal and is willing to work for a similar successful career and put a coaching future on hold.
Nelson feels as if his game is suited perfectly for Europe and this opportunity will take him back to "my good old high school days when I used to shoot 3s," he said of being a long, lanky perimeter player.
"I spent most of the summer working out and working on my athleticism," said Nelson, a Deerfield High School product. "Learning to play on the perimeter again was probably my biggest challenge. The Euro game is more of a face-up game with the 4 and 5 men playing on the perimeter handling the ball. I spent a lot of time on ball-handling and working on my jump shot to extend my range. I'm trying to mold my game to more of what a European team would look for in a guy who is 6-9."
Despite having to morph his game back to an old style, he said he would never change the past when he was groomed to be a banger inside in a tough collegiate league.
"I wouldn't be playing basketball in Europe if I hadn't changed from being a 3-point shooter in high school to playing a post in college," he said. "It was absolutely the best decision and the best possible thing that could have happened."
Now, in the next stage of his basketball career, Nelson is hoping once again for the best possible scenarios to play out in his favor.
"If I work hard enough, which I know I will," said Nelson, "I know I can be pretty successful in Europe."
You can follow Kyle Nelson's overseas hoops exploits on his blog at kylenelsonbasketball.blogspot.com