Green signs deal to play hoops in Italy

By Jeff Nations

Erick Green soon will be collecting stamps from across Europe in his heretofore seldom-used passport.

That’s a good thing, considering the possible alternative for the Winchester resident and former Virginia Tech standout basketball player. Drafted by the Utah Jazz with the 46th pick during the NBA Draft on June 27, then promptly flipped to the Denver Nuggets in a draft-night trade, Green had been prepping for his rookie season in the NBA when he got some bad news last week. The Nuggets signed veteran free agent point guard Nate Robinson — Green’s prospective position — leaving the team with a full complement of three point guards and no roster spots available for their draft pick.

At the Nuggets’ urging, Green agreed this week to sign a one-year deal to play overseas for Montepaschi Siena, a perennial champion in the Italian League and a member of the 24-team Euroleague as well. It wasn’t Green’s first choice, obviously, but the prospect of more playing time and tougher competition than he likely would have seen in the NBA’s Developmental League prompted the 6-foot-3, 185-pound guard to pack his bags for an overseas stay.

“It was disappointing — it’s your dream,” said Green during a phone interview on Wednesday. “But it’s still good. The Nuggets still like me a lot and want me to be a part of their organization. I’m going to take this like a year of prep school and get stronger and work on my game.”

Green, who led the nation in scoring with 25 points per game during his senior season at Virginia Tech and was named the Atlantic Coast Conference’s Player of the Year in 2012-2013, has played basketball all over the country, but other than Canada he couldn’t recall much time out of the country. That will change starting in mid-August, when Green is slated to make the move to Italy to join his team in Siena. Green said the Nuggets provided three options for playing in Europe — Lithuania, Turkey or Italy. Green chose to play for Siena, even though it didn’t offer the most money of the three, for competitive reasons.

“The Nuggets thought I needed a year to develop and get stronger,” Green said. “Why keep me on the bench or put me in the D-league when I can go overseas and get a lot of experience?”

Green already has been in contact with Marco Crespi, the coach for Montepaschi Siena, and said he was told to expect an up-tempo offense utilizing plenty of pick-and-rolls similar to what he’d see in the NBA. Green is slated to play both the point and two-guard for Siena, and knows he’ll have at least one fellow American on the roster in former USC standout Daniel Hackett.

The Nuggets will retain Green’s rights and plan to bring him back to play for their summer league team again next year. Green played in six games with Denver’s summer league team in mid-July. Green said that experience helped him grow as a player, but he wasn’t satisfied with his performance despite putting up solid numbers. By next July, Green plans to have sharpened his game considerably by playing with and against the best players in Europe.

“I’m excited,” Green said. “It’s an opportunity to play basketball, which is what I love to do. I get a chance to see a new country and play against top-level competition. It’s going to be good.”

Contact Sports Editor Jeff Nations at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or jnations@nvdaily.com>