Torrey Craig cherished the moments before NBA games in Denver's Pepsi Center this past season, when he could bounce around the court with his 4-year old son, Braylon. Craig, who was on a two-way contract with the Nuggets, trying to claim a foothold in the league, would bounce the ball over his son's head, both laughing as Braylon chased his dad.
Sure, Craig will never forget those moments. But they also won't be the last. Braylon will get more chances to get on the court with his dad, who signed a two-year, $4 million contract with the Nuggets on July 9. Craig's contract is fully guaranteed. The deal represents a major milestone for Craig, the Great Falls native who has hacked clear a path to the NBA during the last four years.
"It's definitely meaningful, being in my situation and coming where I've come from," Craig said by phone Monday night. "Not a lot of guys do that."
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Several media outlets reported that Craig had more lucrative offers from several other NBA teams. For Craig, spurning those advances to stay in Denver was an easy choice.
"I felt like money wasn't really the No. 1 option," he said. "I just wanted to play somewhere where I was familiar, where I fit in well, I didn't want to risk leaving going to a different situation, not knowing the outcome of what might happen."
Craig starred at Great Falls High, was lightly recruited and ended up at USC Upstate. He flourished in an overlooked scenario -- a recurring theme for him -- but was not drafted by an NBA team in 2014. Craig's journey next took him to Australia and New Zealand, where he developed into a windmill-armed defensive player. Craig fully committed himself to becoming an impact defender and won the Australian National Basketball League's defensive player of the year award in 2017.
It was around that same time that Craig essentially gave up on his NBA dream. He was content with his life in Brisbane, Australia, and no longer losing sleep about playing at the highest level in the world.
"It wasn't really a main focus of mine. I was just focusing on the team I was on in Australia, and trying to win there," he said.
Naturally, that's when NBA teams got interested.
Craig's league-best defensive season led to interest from the Nuggets and the 6-foot-6 wing joined their NBA Summer League team for the two-week 2017 season. He played well enough to land a two-way contract, which split his time between the Nuggets' G League team in Sioux Falls and the NBA. Craig's contract limited him to 45 days with the Nuggets but he impressed the team's coaches and front office, and was made a restricted free agent last week, a sign that the team was interested in keeping him. That turned out to be true when Craig landed a two-year deal with Denver this week.
Gina Mizell's excellent story in the Denver Post looked at Craig's roots and his relationship with his mother, Teresa, who spent considerable time in prison, his sister, Sacha, who helped raise him, and his relationship with his own son, Braylon. Several Denver media members posted videos on social media of Craig pregame playing with his son. Now Craig will get the chance to make even more videos like that.
"It's amazing because I know how much he enjoyed his time there in Denver and being on the court with other NBA guys," said Craig. "He loves basketball to death, so him being in that environment really means a lot to him, which means a lot to me."