Fairfield’s Tyler Nelson getting pro looks
First, came a workout for the Los Angeles Lakers. Then there was a trip to Boston and a workout with the Celtics. The next day involved a flight to Charlotte for a workout with the Hornets. Finally, there was a trip to Washington D.C. to workout for the Wizards and then a drive up I-95 to Philadelphia to show the 76ers his skills.
Tyler Nelson has been a very busy man.
After finishing an historic four-year career at Fairfield, Nelson is beginning to reap the benefits of that loyalty —and that incredible growth as a player — into a chance to not only continue his dream of playing professionally but playing professionally at the highest level — the National Basketball Association.
“I had five workouts where I performed at the team’s facility in front of their coaches and general managers and all that stuff,” Nelson said. “I also had a ‘pro day’ a couple of weeks ago (in Los Angeles) my agent (Bill Meff) set that up and there were a bunch of scouts from various teams there. I thought I did pretty well at all of (the workouts) but I think my best one was at Washington, that and Charlotte, those I felt were my best.”
According to Nelson, the average NBA workout consists of 3-on-3, 2-on-2 and 1-on-1 drills with upwards of five or six other prospects that the team brings in. After an hour or so of shooting, ball-handling and defensive drills, the organization sits down with the prospect for a couple of hours of interviews. And depending on the success of the workout, other doors could open, like receiving an invitation to the NBA Summer League or a spot on a G League roster
“I do think I will get invited to a (NBA) summer camp, it’s not definite yet, so I can’t really say but I have talked with some teams, so there’s definitely a possibility. Hopefully I’ll know by the weekend,” Nelson said. “There’s a solid chance that I could go to the G league. No guarantees but if I can get a summer league spot then the G league would be next.”
Nelson enjoyed one of the best offensive careers and seasons in school history by establishing Fairfield records for career points (2,172 points) and points in a season (732 points in 2017-18), the first 700-point season in school history. Nelson was the top scorer in the MAAC with a 22.2 scoring average this year, a number which also places 13th in the NCAA Division I statistics. He also places nationally in three pointers made per game (23rd with 3.15 per game).
“He’s the best player that I’ve ever coached,” Fairfield men’s basketball coach Sydney Johnson said. “From where he started to where he is now, I’ve never had a player grow as much as he has, not even close. From where Tyler started to where he is now, he’s developed more than any guy I’ve coached, mentally, tactically, the whole thing. I’ve never seen anything like it. He’s one of those once in a lifetime kids.”
The Fairfield guard participated in the prestigious Portsmouth (Va.) Invitational Tournament, getting named to the All-Tournament Team. Nelson finished in the top 15 for scoring during the three-game tournament, averaging 14.7 points per game. He shot 52 percent from the floor during the tournament, making 17 of 33 field goal attempts. He also shot 41 percent from three-point range, netting seven of 17 tries. He averaged 1.7 steals per game which placed him fifth among the tournament field and contributed 2.7 assists per game.
Earlier, Nelson earned a starting berth for the West All-Stars in the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) Senior All-Star Team in San Antonio, Texas. Nelson was one of six players to reach double figures, scoring 11 points the West in a 98-94 victory over the East All-Stars. He was the only player MAAC to garner a roster spot.
“Those were great experiences for me and I think they helped me get these NBA workouts,” Nelson said. “It definitely opened up some doors, so that was great.”
Opened doors? Try, kicking them down.
“As of today, Tyler is the only player from the entire MAAC conference that was invited to an NBA tryout,” Johnson said. “It’s absolutely clear evidence when you find a really good situation, when you can play right away and develop, they you can accomplish great things. It’s a storybook career for him here and it’s a compelling story for what we’re doing here at Fairfield.”
From arriving at Fairfield with a pretty good jump shot and not much else, Nelson worked himself into the becoming the best player in the league as a senior — despite the MAAC coaches voting differently — breaking the Stags all-time scoring record during his senior season.
“In my opinion, he was the best player in the league,” Johnson said. “And when you have the Celtics and Lakers taking a look at a Fairfield Stag, I’m going to take some pride in that.
And if the NBA isn’t his final landing spot, There are several other options that Nelson could find.
“Worst case scenario, he’ll play overseas in a competitive league in Europe,” Johnson said. “Right now, we’re going through these tryouts and the next step will be an invitation to a NBA summer league and then based on that, he could play his way into a training camp. That’s the process.”