“I couldn’t have scripted it any better.” Andre Spight’s journey to Nuggets summer league roster

Photo Photo provided by UNC Athletics
Photo provided by UNC Athletics

“The beauty is always the journey.”

That is how former University of Northern Colorado basketball star Andre Spight described his path that ultimately landed him on the Denver Nuggets summer league roster. That same day that he found out he was headed to Las Vegas with the Nuggets, he spoke exclusively with Mile High Sports about what was next for him as he also reflected on his past path to this point.

Spight originally worked out for the Nuggets during the pre-draft workout process and knew the possibility of joining Denver’s summer league team was in play. It was his only pre-draft workout and, if there was any hope of getting a chance to showcase his skills, it would be with the Nuggets in Las Vegas.

“Yeah, the workout went well,” Spight told Mile High Sports. “I know that was the only workout that I had, so I wasn’t trying to just bank on them taking for me in summer league. So, I just waited till my number was called and it was. I knew it was a possibility for me to get on their summer league team, but it wasn’t like I put all my marbles in that basket.”

Spight did not shy away from the fact that Denver was his go-to summer league squad all along. He wanted the Nuggets to give him the opportunity to prove himself in Las Vegas, and that hope came to fruition.

“It means the world to me,” Spight told Mile High Sports. “It’s a huge blessing just to get into the summer league and get a chance to showcase my skills. It means everything to me and I’m just really excited; especially for the Nuggets. If I had a choice for any summer league team, it would be them.”

The Nuggets have known about Spight for a while now and, when he arrived for his workout, that was conveyed to him, as well as the rest of the prospects working out. Spight took that to heart and performed well.

“Well, when I got there, they told us that they know who each one of us are and what we do,” Spight told Mile High Sports. “So, they basically told us to not go outside our character, just be who we are and we don’t have to do too much. Just play our game and showcase our skills.”

After winning Big Sky Newcomer of the Year last season, Spight became one of the best collegiate scorers in the nation and was also voted onto first-team Big-Sky. Spight averaged 22.5 points per game and scored a total of 855 points, which broke the UNC record for most points scored in a season.

Spight scored 1,034 points in just two seasons at the division-one level. His senior year at UNC was by far the most special, as only Trae Young and Jordan Howard scored more total points than Spight did last season. Young, who was the fifth pick in the NBA draft, had four 40-point games while the next closest scorer to him was Spight, who had three. Digging even deeper in the record books, Spight’s remarkable point total of 855 lands him at 52nd on the all-time list for most points scored in a single season.

Although, it hasn’t always been bright lights for Spight; his journey certainly hasn’t been easy. It has been a surprising journey to have gotten where he is today, but the chaos of his path is something that he has embraced along the way.

“The beauty is always the journey, man,” Spight told Mile high Sports. “The journey means everything. This is where all the fun is — at the grind. That’s the fun part about this whole process and going from Arizona State, to UNC, and to the Nuggets; it is just so surreal and I couldn’t have scripted it any better — bouncing back from Arizona State, coming to UNC, and having a solid year to put myself in this position.

The hard work continues to pay off for Spight as he’s given himself what every basketball player wants — an opportunity to play at the next level.

“It was a bit of a shock; it was really a bit of a shock to me,” Spight told Mile High Sports. “My agent called and we were excited we got his opportunity, so it was definitely a shock at first.”

For a guy who was playing at a junior college just four seasons ago, summer league isn’t just a chance to show the Nuggets what he can do, but other NBA teams as well. After playing two seasons at South Plains College in Levilland, Texas, Spight showcased his skills averaging 15.5 points and just under three assists per game during his junior college career.

Spight appeared in just 27 games for the Sun Devils during the 2015-2016 season, averaging 19.5 minutes and 6.6 points per game. After transferring to UNC for his senior season, Spight redshirted the 2017 season, which might not have been a bad thing as it allowed him to skip out on a season where the Bears would have been ineligible to compete in the postseason anyway.

Along with Spight’s transfer came a new coach, who was formally an assistant at Boise State, and his name is Jeff Linder. During his time in Boise, Linder recruited recent first-round pick Chandler Hutchison and was also the individual who recruited Damian Lillard to Weber State when where he was an assistant in 2006. Linder certainly has an eye for talent, and Spight gives his former head coach and staff all the credit they deserve in helping him get to where he is today.

“I’m really, really glad I got to play for coach Linder,” Spight told Mile High Sports. “I don’t think any of this would’ve happened the way it did without him and his coaching staff. Cause, let’s be honest, they put me in a great position. They trusted me with the ball in my hands for pretty much the majority of the game. So, it’s just really special and I’m really happy for those guys and that program.”

During Spight’s redshirt year, he was able to practice with the team and had the opportunity to go against Big Sky Defensive Player of the Year Jonah Radebaugh numerous times in practice.

“Oh it was definitely a good thing,” Spight told Mile High Sports. “Jonah is the best defender that I’ve ever played with. It was definitely a good thing. I was redshirting and he didn’t guard me much during my redshirt year. He was mostly guarding Anthony Johnson. So, he didn’t get to man reps on me; luckily for him (laughs). So it was all good.”

Radebaugh — whose from Thornton, Colorado and went to Northglenn High School — was voted as the Defensive Player of the Year in 2017 after walking-on and projects to be one of UNC’s biggest contributors next season.

Sticking with Johnson, Spight wasn’t the only redshirt senior last year as Johnson and Tanner Morgan both sat out two years ago with the hope of a postseason run in 2018. They certainly didn’t disappoint as the Bears1, led by Spight, certainly made the most of their opportunity as they took home the CIT championship defeating the University of Illinois-Chicago, 76-71. Spight scored 23 points in the championship game following up a performance where he scored 40 against Sam Houston State in order to give the Bears a shot at the championship.

With UNC being just one of three teams in the NCAA to finish on a win, Spight was ecstatic his college career, for he and his teammates were able to finish the year in such a prestigious way.

“Yeah, that’s everything because not a lot of teams will do that — finishing on a win,” Spight explained to Mile High Sports. “I’m really glad we got to do that; unlike how we finished the Big Sky Tournament. I like how we played. We were playing our best basketball then, but there was a sour taste in our mouths’ after we lost to Montana. I was just glad to end on a win and on a championship, for that matter.

With Spight’s dynamic ability to put the ball through the basket, one part of his game that is often gets over looked is his passing ability. Spight’s ability to get his teammates involved is something he showcased often last season and is something he wants to showcase to the Nuggets organization during summer league. When asked what he wants to show to everyone watching, he doubled down on that thought process.

“That I can get my teammates involved and that I can play really hard defense,” Spight explained. “I play hard every single possession — very vocal every possession — and that I can put the ball in the basket.”

Spight’s court vision works wonders on the offensive end of the floor because his passing compliments his scoring ability so well. As prolific a scorer as Spight is, that often creates opportunities for his teammates. The good thing about Spight is he rarely misses an open teammate when he draws a double team.

You can see in the video above Spight gets triple-teamed when driving to the rim and one of the guys who switches over is Phoenix Suns’ second-round pick George King. Spight’s ability to draw King shows respect by one of the best defenders in the Pac-12 last season and it also showcases Spight’s ability to use his high basketball IQ and find Radebaugh for an easy three.

To compliment his offensive ability, Spight’s also a tremendous leader on and off the floor. Spight sees himself as a leader in everything he does and is always trying to be the most vocal guy on his team, no matter the situation.

“Oh yeah of course,” Spight explained to Mile High Sports when asked about his leadership. “I’ve always been a vocal guy on my team no matter what team I’ve been on. I’ve always been that guy that is talking the most in the locker room or talking the most on the court or off the court. I’m always engaged, especially if it has to do with basketball, so I’ve just always talked to my teammates and kind of guide them through, because I know if you get lost in your teammates, your game is going to be fine, but if you are just in your own world — in your own little deal — it is kind of going to be tough to have a good game.”

The Nuggets have often added players onto their summer league team who have played collegiately in Colorado, but Spight will be the first on that list from Northern Colorado. After bringing the school its first championship since they won the Big Sky Tournament in 2011, Spight became one of the best players, if not the best player in the Northern Colorado’s history in just one season. To do that in a mere 38 games is incredible, but that is just a testament to who Andre Spight is. He’s a guy that won’t take no for an answer, a grinder, and a guy that strives to be successful.

Spight’s journey has been down a long and hard road, but now that road has gained at least one more stop along the way, and that is in Las Vegas on July 6th. As Spight’s basketball career continues, so does his journey. He will continue to scratch the NBA’s surface andq he is only going to keep working harder in order to get better.

“I’m definitely not satisfied and content though, I’m still continuing to work hard every single day and just get better,” Spight told Mile High Sports.

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