The beginning of the Eric Musselman era at Nevada brought immediate success to a program that struggled to find any since moving to the Mountain West Conference in 2012. A major piece in that newfound prosperity was Cameron Oliver. Oliver was the one of the most exciting players Nevada has ever seen. The 6-foot 8-inch forward dazzled with his high flying dunks and plenty of blocks on the defensive end.
Since leaving Nevada, Oliver has not reached his dream of playing full-time in the NBA but roadblocks have never stopped Oliver before. Oliver has gone through turmoil most players could not imagine.
Oliver played high school ball at Grant High School in Sacramento. The first major obstacle Oliver faced was the torn ACL he suffered before the start of his junior year, and he was forced to miss the entire season. He came back stronger than ever his senior season, averaging a double-double with over 20 points and 10 rebounds a game.
Coming out of high school, Oliver committed to Oregon State. Before the start of the season the Beavers fired head coach Craig Robinson, and Oliver followed suit, leaving the program soon after. Oliver returned home and spent the next year in limbo. He worked as a cashier trying to provide for his family and questioned whether basketball was still his calling.
“I wasn’t even really focused on basketball at the time,” Oliver said when looking back on his year away from basketball.
That mindset changed after Oliver was recruited by Eric Musselman, who was entering his first year as head coach at Nevada. Oliver once again became serious about basketball after the “mentally challenging” year he just had. Oliver decided to join the Wolf Pack and was immediately an impact player. It was as if Oliver never took a year off of playing the game he loved. He averaged 13 points and nine rebounds and over two and a half blocks per game his freshman year. Oliver made the Mountain West All-Defensive team that year along with being placed on the third-team All-Mountain West squad. Nevada won the CBI tournament that year and Nevada solidified itself as a force to be reckoned with in the future.
“Me and Lindsey [Drew] were probably the missing piece to the puzzle to get things started and having success,” Oliver said on why the team enjoyed instant success. “Myself, Lindsey Drew, Marqueze Coleman, AJ West, Tyron Criswell and DJ Fenner quickly all adjusted to the new culture of Coach Muss,” Oliver added.
The second year for Cam Oliver — and Nevada — was even better. He averaged 16 points, 8.7 rebounds and 2.6 blocks a game. He also raised his three-point field goal percentage six percent from his freshman year. Oliver was second-team All-Mountain West and won the Mountain West conference tournament. The Wolf Pack reached the NCAA tournament for the first time in a decade. Oliver’s journey with Nevada came to an end as the Wolf Pack lost in the round of 64 to Iowa State.
Oliver’s two years were two of the best years any Nevada player has ever had. Oliver’s time at Nevada was the most successful part of Oliver’s career. It wasn’t just Reno that noticed. Mock drafts from writers and analysts across the nation had Oliver penciled in as second-round draft pick in the 2017 NBA Draft — some even had Oliver going as early as the end of the first round.
“I was at the point where I felt like I wasn’t good enough,” Oliver said on going undrafted on draft night. Oliver was once again forced to start from the bottom. “[Going undrafted] was one of the bigger chips on my shoulder. It took a big part of my soul away.” Oliver signed with the Houston Rockets during that summer but was released and later signed with the Wisconsin Herd of the NBA G League for the 2017-18 season.
Oliver uses being undrafted as motivation for his way up to the NBA, “I have a mental hitlist of the 60 guys picked before me. That’s how I want to get better.” Oliver especially channels that energy when playing those picked before him in the G League.
In the first 21 games of the season, Oliver averaged just under 12 points, and 6.7 rebounds in 23 minutes. Oliver was then traded to the Delaware 87ers. The 87ers — now the Delaware Blue Coats — gave Oliver similar playing time and Oliver finished the season averaging 10.8 points per game and 7.5 rebounds per game.
“This is where you find out who actually takes it serious and who doesn’t,” Oliver said on life in the G League. Oliver’s success in the G League did not come without barriers though. Having to leave his wife and son is not easy but the G League has helped Oliver mature as a man.
Oliver impressed this past summer during the NBA Summer League. Oliver played for Delaware’s NBA Affiliate, the Philadelphia 76ers. Oliver was impressive with an average seven points, five rebounds, a block and a steal. The Summer League showed that Oliver could hold his own against the young talents he faces in the NBA.
Oliver believes God has a plan for him and that if he didn’t he would not be going through the mental and physical hurdles to fulfill his dream of being in the NBA.
Oliver’s journey will take its next step as Oliver signed a training camp deal with the Portland Trail Blazers, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
Darion Strugs can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @dstrugs.