High School Sports

Big basketball news for Torrey Craig, Xavier Cooks and Rock Hill High sophomore

Great Falls native Torrey Craig and recent Winthrop graduate Xavier Cooks are trying to nail down NBA jobs this summer.
Great Falls native Torrey Craig and recent Winthrop graduate Xavier Cooks are trying to nail down NBA jobs this summer.

The 2018 NBA free agency period begins July 1 and Great Falls, S.C. native Torrey Craig can breathe a little easier knowing he has a qualifying offer on the table from the Denver Nuggets.

The offer makes Craig a restricted free agent, meaning that any deal offered to him can be matched by the Nuggets first.

Craig, a 27-year old who starred at Great Falls High for legendary coach John Smith before playing at USC Upstate, spent most of last season with the Nuggets, appearing in 39 games on a two-way contract that saw him split time between the NBA and the NBA G League's Sioux Falls Skyforce. Craig averaged 4.2 points and 3.3 rebounds per game and shot 45 percent from the field, while seeing over 16 minutes per contest.

Craig's pro career launched in New Zealand after he went undrafted by the NBA out of college. The silky 6-foot-6, 215-pound wing moved to Australia and won the National Basketball League's defensive player of the year award in 2017. His success there led to his NBA shot with the Nuggets' Summer League team, an opportunity he seized upon.

“It’s neat when a story like this kind of materializes,” Nuggets president of basketball operations Tim Connelly told the Denver Post's Gina Mizell. “It’s certainly well-deserving. … The league’s looking for guys like him — guys who can make a shot and play defense. “It’s fun because it’s happening to a good person. It’s gratifying because he’s a guy that I think is unanimously liked by the coaching staff and the font office.”

Winthrop's Cooks lands NBA Summer League gig

Recent Winthrop grad Xavier Cooks will play for the Golden State Warriors in the 2018 NBA Summer League.

Winthrop coach Pat Kelsey confirmed the news in a Tweet. HoopsHype.com has the NBA Summer League rosters here.

Cooks, a native of Wollongong, New South Wales, Australia, finished his Winthrop career by winning the Big South Conference player of the year award. He led the Eagles to the 2017 NCAA Tournament and finished as the school's all-time leading rebounder and shot-blocker.

The 6-foot-8 small forward has a unique game, owing to the fact he was a 6-foot guard for most of his high school career, before a considerable growth spurt in his late teen years. Cooks worked out for a handful of NBA teams in the last few weeks, and joins a Warriors organization fresh off a second straight NBA title.

Golden State's team will play in a four-team tournament with the L.A. Lakers, Miami Heat and Sacramento Kings, running from July 2 to July 5. The Vegas Summer League then runs from July 6 to 17 and includes all 30 NBA teams.

Cooks becomes the latest Winthrop player to land a Summer League roster spot. Michael Jenkins turned his Summer League success with the Brooklyn Nets in 2014 into an Oklahoma City Thunder training camp invite. Jimmy Gavin also recently played in the Summer League with Orlando.

Winthrop’s senior men’s basketball standout Xavier Cooks has one final season in Rock Hill. Eagles coach Pat Kelsey talked Tuesday about what makes the Australian such a unique player.

Rock Hill's Williams lands DePaul offer

Rock Hill High rising junior Saiveon Williams landed a scholarship offer from DePaul University Tuesday.

Williams took an unofficial visit to the Chicago-based Big East school with his brother, Armond, and Blue Demons coach Dave Leitao offered both a scholarship. Williams and his brother are still trying to catch on with an Elite Youth Basketball League team before the EYBL season -- which can be crucial for college recruiting exposure -- but Saiveon was ecstatic to land his first offer before July's recruiting period.

"I was very excited," he said. "Can't stop smiling. Very happy to tell everybody."

Leitao had a clear message for Saiveon and A.J.

"'You guys got to keep working,'" Saiveon said. "They said they're gonna keep watching us."

Saiveon Williams lives in Rock Hill with his mother, Tiffani Robinson, while the rest of his siblings live in Chicago with his dad. Williams' mom is 5-foot-10 and his dad is 6-foot-5, so he's hoping for a few more inches of growth.

Williams, a 6-foot-4 guard/small forward, made All-Region 4-5A for Eric Rollings' Bearcats last season. He plans on returning to Rock Hill High this coming year, where he'll play with what should be a strong Bearcats squad, including two other likely college basketball recruits, Luke Bracy and Jordan Wildy. Williams primarily played in the post the last two years for Rock Hill, but plans on developing his ball-handling and shooting skill-set in advance of a college career likely spent more on the perimeter.

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