By Neil Patrick Healy
When Nevada’s star forward Cameron Oliver decided to enter his name into the NBA draft, the motive was not to forgo his college eligibility but to have his skills on display to be evaluated by NBA scouts and GMs. Now he has taken what he learned and is using it to build a successful sophomore season for the Wolf Pack.
“I talked to coach Musselman about [declaring for the draft] and just told him that I wanted to get the feedback from certain coaches and GMs from teams and see how I am outside of the West Coast,” Oliver said. “Just so I could see what I can do, and that’s pretty much how it was. Just see how I am and see what it’s like in the NBA experience.”
With a new rule change announced by the NCAA last year, college basketball players can enter their name into the draft three times throughout their career. If the player hasn’t hired an agent (as in Oliver’s case), he can still return to school before the deadline 10 days after the NBA Combine. Oliver and Musselman both agreed that the process would be beneficial.
“We talked to as many teams as we could for him, and we were really supportive,” Musselman said. “We felt like it was something that Cam really wanted to do and we wanted him to do it, and we think it’s great for him from an experience standpoint.”
Oliver came alive in the second half of the season and made himself known to NBA scouts by averaging 20 points and 11 rebounds during the Pack’s postseason run that included a CBI championship. He earned Mountain West freshman of the year and MWC first team All-Defense, and he wanted to build off his freshman success with the help of his coach.
“[Musselman] was very hands-on,” Oliver said. “He pretty much told me who’s interested and what the workouts were and kind of gave me a feel for it. He really helped me. He told me what was going on and the business side of the NBA.”
Musselman, who was a head coach at the NBA level with the Golden State Warriors and the Sacramento Kings, not only helped him prepare for specific NBA workouts but also readied him for the jump in talent level from the MWC to the NBA.
“You’re just playing against better players and you’re working out against better players,” Musselman said. “You’re entering a man’s world. All those things test you mentally and physically at those NBA workouts.”
In his workout with the Boston Celtics, Oliver showed his potential and versatility but ultimately chose to come back to work on his game for the NBA that is continually evolving.
“As it is with bigs, [it’s important] to be more of a consistent shooter, being able to handle the ball in certain situations and just simple things like that,” Oliver said. “Being more of a Draymond Green type. I mean, I’m probably more athletic than Draymond Green, but in terms of being able to guard the one through five and still have that power forward position and just kind of have that type of versatility.”
Oliver also said that he draws comparisons to Green in regard to his versatility. Being an Oakland native, he enjoys the comparison to the Warriors forward.
Other than news of the workouts and which teams he worked out for, what he brought back to his teammates was some of the gifts teams gave him.
“The main thing he was talking about was the gear,” said Nevada sophomore guard and teammate Lindsey Drew. “He was loving the gear and he got some stuff. He got shorts, nice shirts and stuff with NBA logos on it.”
Drew’s favorite thing Oliver brought was a pair of Celtics shorts he got after his Boston workout.
Oliver withdrew from the draft and is currently rated by Draft Express as the No. 47 prospect in the 2017 NBA draft, which puts him in the middle of the second round. The combination of his athletic ability and his versatility makes him a very compelling prospect, and coach Musselman expects him to improve his stock, saying he’s a star in the making. Overall, Oliver is happy with how the draft process went.
“It was a really fun experience for me,” Oliver said. “I got the experience that I wanted, as to see how I am, how it feels and get the feedback from certain coaches, GMs and players. It was a fun experience and I could bring back a lot of information to these guys here.”
Neil Patrick Healy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @NP_Healy.