As the Celtics prepare to begin Summer League play in Orlando this Sunday, a lot of the focus will be on first round pick Kelly Olynyk. But another guy that fans should keep an eye on is Colton Iverson. Danny Ainge has had his eye on Iverson for quite a while.
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“Colton is a player that we were excited by in the draft and had him ranked much higher than he ended up going,” Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said. “We were really fortunate to acquire a second-round pick to get Colton.
“Colton is a kid that we’ve watched since his freshman year of college at the University of Minnesota. We loved his intensity from Day 1 and identified him as someone that we needed to keep a real close eye on.”
Iverson spent two seasons with the Gophers but elected to sit out a year and transfer to Colorado State with the goal of increasing his on-court opportunities.
“When he transferred to Colorado State, you could see how his work ethic and intensity continued, his confidence grew with opportunities,” Ainge said. “[Iverson was] one of the leading rebounders in the country. You know, for a guy to rebound at the level that he rebounded, it takes a lot of hard work and a lot of effort. He’s put a lot of work into his body and he’s gotten much stronger. And [he] just has a great intensity about him.”
It’s way too soon to make major comparisons, but could Iverson be a Leon Powe or Big Baby type? Only with height? Time will tell, but over the next week or so we will certainly get a good look at what he can do against NBA-level talent.
Soon after the draft, reports indicated that Iverson might consider a season overseas. Iverson denied that any such plan is on his mind, noting at Monday’s introduction that, “The Boston Celtics drafted me and I have every intention of playing with them next year.”
That means he’ll have to put his best foot forward when the Celtics trek to Orlando for summer league later this week. With the team potentially facing a logjam in the frontcourt, it might benefit both parties if Iverson spends a season overseas (he gets a healthy payday and an introduction to pro ball; the Celtics save a roster spot while planning for the future).
At age 24, however, Iverson has made it a goal to latch on with Boston and plans to show what he can bring in Orlando.
“I think my best basketball is playing five-on-five; so if I can get in, get rebounds, get stops, set screens, get in the pick-and-roll — that’s what a lot of the NBA is nowadays, pick-and-roll, and that’s my strength,” he said. “Just do the little things and show the team that I’m ready to play right away.”
Iverson took a risk when he decided to sit-out a year and transfer from Minny to CSU. But he worked hard on his game and did not listen to doubters. Now, he has a chance to suit-up for the most successful franchise in NBA history.
Iverson appears to thrive against long odds. Many were leery of his decision to transfer from Minnesota to Colorado State.
“I wouldn’t be [drafted] right now if I didn’t make that decision to transfer,” Iverson said. “I improved a lot in the season off, did everything I needed to work on in my game, and you could see my growth my senior year. It definitely paid off, I got drafted and I’m looking forward to a long NBA career.”
Added Iverson: “I knew it was a risk — high-risk, high-reward situation. Most people were definitely saying, ‘You’re crazy. What are you doing?’ Now that I’m here, everyone’s saying they didn’t say it.”
It was none other than Danny’s son Austin that became one of Iverson’s biggest supporters. And despite Boston being at the beginning of what may be a rocky rebuild, Iverson says he’s here to stay.
But Iverson has had supporters in Boston for some time, his agent, Adam Pensack, told The Coloradoan last week.
“During the season, maybe even before I even talked to Colton or his family, I spoke with the people in Boston, and they said they liked Colton back then,” Pensack said. “[Celtics director of player personnel] Austin Ainge said all along that he really believes Colton is an NBA player. He has been probably Colton’s No. 1 fan throughout the entire season and throughout the entire draft process.”
Iverson knows the Celtics are in transition after dealing away Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce— a move that overshadowed his own draft night, as some Boston fans were unaware that the team had even bought Indiana’s pick to nab him.
Iverson grew up a Garnett fan. Being from northeast South Dakota, he was a Minnesota Timberwolves fan and said his family sometimes made the five-hour trek to Minneapolis to catch games.
While learning under Garnett might have been an intriguing prospect, Iverson doesn’t back down from the idea of going against him on the floor.
“Now that I’m here, I don’t look up to anyone really,” said Iverson, showing a bit of that confidence and toughness. “It’s like, ‘I’m going against you; let’s go.’ It would have been great to have him and learn from him, but moves happen.”
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