FARGO — Kentucky. Gonzaga. Baylor. Kansas. UCLA.
And others. So many others.
North Dakota’s Grant Nelson will have options. Lots of really, really, really good options if he decides to forgo the NBA Draft and return to college.
A list of schools that have contacted Nelson obtained by The Forum shows the bluest of the college basketball bluebloods have interest in the Devils Lake High School graduate who played three years for North Dakota State’s men’s basketball team.
A total of 33 schools are interested so far, a list that includes eight programs that have made Final Four appearances in the last three seasons — San Diego State, Miami, Kansas, Villanova, Baylor, Gonzaga, UCLA and Houston.
Here’s the complete list of schools that have contacted Nelson (in alphabetical order):
– Central Florida
– Florida State
– Georgia Tech
– San Diego State
– St. John’s
– Texas Tech
– Washington State
A 6-foot-10 forward who has two years of college eligibility remaining, Nelson declared for the NBA Draft with the option of returning to college as NCAA rules allow. Now it’s nearly decision time for Nelson.
He has less than a week to decide, by May 31 specifically, whether to remain in the draft or return to college basketball.
If it’s the latter, there are more decisions to make. He’s entered the NCAA transfer portal and so a return to college would mean he could play for any school, including NDSU.
But a return to Fargo is remote. Nelson has the choice of top-flight programs that would offer a higher level of competition in hopes of boosting his draft stock in 2024, plus could offer six-figure Name/Image/Likeness (NIL) deals.
Nelson would prefer to stay in the draft and begin a professional basketball career, but if he does depends on feedback he, his family and his agent receive from NBA teams and experts. Nelson had some impressive test numbers at the recent NBA Draft Combine, but he didn’t stand out in two scrimmages against other top prospects.
If Nelson decides to return to college and test the draft again next year, his choices include the best programs and biggest-name coaches in the game.
There are also the historic behemoths like UCLA and St. John’s, the latter which recently hired famed (and sometimes infamous) Rick Pitino as its head coach.
UCLA has a record 11 national championships. Kentucky (coached by the also famous and sometimes infamous John Calipari) has eight. Kansas (4), Villanova (3) and Cincinnati (2) have won multiple national titles.
Nelson has been focused on training and improving with the hope of being drafted by an NBA team. Some are interested. He worked out for the Indiana Pacers and met with nine teams at the Combine in Chicago last week. There are other meetings scheduled.
Nelson particpated in a pro day held this week in California by his agency. He was joined by 10 other prospects represented by WME Sports. All 30 NBA teams, about 200 executives and scouts total, attended the pro day.
Nelson and those surrounding him refer to a return to college as “Plan B.” If it comes to that, he’ll whittle the list of suitors to a manageable number and engage again in the recruiting process.
The NBA Draft is June 22 in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Mike McFeely is a columnist for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead. He began working for The Forum in the 1980s while he was a student studying journalism at Minnesota State University Moorhead. He’s been with The Forum full time since 1990, minus a six-year hiatus when he hosted a local radio talk-show.