A STEP CLOSER TO HIS DREAM

Bro­pleh will suit up for the Nuggets in Ve­gas

The Denver Post - - FRONT PAGE - By Nick Kos­mider

Thomas Bro­pleh, who starred at Ge­orge Wash­ing­ton High School, has earned a chance to suit up with the Nuggets’ sum­mer team. »

Thomas Bro­pleh has never suited up for a game in a Nuggets uni­form. Not in the reg­u­lar sea­son, the pre­sea­son or even the sum­mer league. Yet he has some­how man­aged to earn an im­pres­sive un­of­fi­cial dis­tinc­tion within the or­ga­ni­za­tion.

“For some­one who has never played sum­mer league of­fi­cially with us, Tommy has more bas­kets in this gym than any hu­man be­ing alive who hasn’t been on the ros­ter,” Nuggets as­sis­tant coach Micah Nori said Wed­nes­day at the team’s prac­tice court at the Pepsi Cen­ter.

Bro­pleh, who starred at Ge­orge Wash­ing­ton High School be­fore play­ing for Boise State, has spent the past three sum­mers work­ing out with the Nuggets as a prac­tice player. The 6-foot-5 guard would help get the team ready for its July cir­cuit and then stay home in Den­ver when the Nuggets headed to Las Ve­gas. But this sum­mer, Bro­pleh is get­ting the chance to see the process through. He is one of 14

play­ers on the Nuggets’ ros­ter who will be­gin sum­mer league play on Fri­day at 8 p.m. against Hous­ton.

Since leav­ing Boise State in 2014, where he av­er­aged 8 points per game, shot 42.6 per­cent from 3-point range and grad­u­ated with a de­gree in fi­nance, Bro­pleh has played pro­fes­sional bas­ket­ball in Ger­many, Por­tu­gal and in the G-League (for­merly the DLeague) in Texas. His hard-earned spot on Den­ver’s sum­mer ros­ter presents an au­di­tion of at least five games he knows could el­e­vate his ca­reer.

“I’ve been work­ing out here the past cou­ple of years and have just been claw­ing away and get­ting bet­ter,” Bro­pleh said. “(The Nuggets) came to me and said they wanted me to be on the team. I’m go­ing to take the op­por­tu­nity. I don’t know what I’m go­ing to get out of it, but any­thing is bet­ter than noth­ing. I ap­pre­ci­ate the op­por­tu­nity, and I’m look­ing for­ward to just claw­ing my way to­ward get­ting some min­utes in the sum­mer league.”

Bro­pleh was an all-state guard on the 2009 Ge­orge Wash­ing­ton team that lost 67-63 to Regis Je­suit in over­time in the Class 5A state cham­pi­onship game. He had a game-high 25 points and scored on a layup with 2.1 sec­onds left to send the game into the ex­tra pe­riod. His brand of tough­ness and versatility stood out. Those are the same qual­i­ties that have given the 25-year-old an op­por­tu­nity to com­pete in Las Ve­gas, said Nori, who is coach­ing the sum­mer league team.

“He just comes in and does what­ever is asked,” Nori said. “He’ll play any po­si­tion. He’ll play the two (shoot­ing guard), three (small for­ward), four (power for­ward), what­ever you need. I’m glad that he’s get­ting the op­por­tu­nity to go with us to Ve­gas, and hope­fully we’ll get him some min­utes down there and he’ll per­form well. Just see­ing him over the last three years and see­ing the leaps and bounds that he’s grown and the way he’s added to his game, he’s good to have around.”

The stars of sum­mer league are of­ten the first-round draft picks on whom fran­chises are pin­ning big hopes. But more abun­dant are the play­ers who have had to over­come var­i­ous ob­sta­cles and chal­lenges on their pro­fes­sional path. Bro­pleh spent his first pro sea­son in Ger­many, where he played on a young, in­ex­pe­ri­enced team and learned quickly that play­ing in Europe was more of a phys­i­cal chal­lenge than he an­tic­i­pated.

“There were a lot of ups and downs,” he said. “You’re a young adult, and you’re learn­ing how to play against grown men.”

Bro­pleh re­turned to the United States af­ter his sea­son in Ger­many and earned an in­vi­ta­tion to the train­ing camp of the G-League’s Texas Leg­ends. He made the ros­ter but was cut sev­eral months later, in Fe­bru­ary of 2016. Then the phone went silent. It took eight months be­fore Bro­pleh was signed with a team in Por­tu­gal. He played well enough there to catch the at­ten­tion of Bre­ogan of Spain’s sec­ond di­vi­sion. He av­er­aged 11.2 points per game and shot 58 per­cent com­ing off the bench.

Bro­pleh’s goal now is to earn a spot in the Euroleague or an­other top league over­seas and per­haps earn an in­vi­ta­tion to an NBA train­ing camp down the road. It’s a path more play­ers are trav­el­ing with the ad­di­tion of two-way con­tracts that NBA teams can use to ex­pand their ros­ters by two play­ers. Play­ers on two-way con­tracts spend most of their time in the DLeague but can earn bonuses de­pend­ing on how much NBA ser­vice time they ac­crue.

It’s a long, hard road to travel. Bro­pleh is just go­ing to keep show­ing up and get­ting buck­ets.

“I just want to show that I’m a com­plete player who plays hard,” he said. “I play hard on de­fense. I can shoot the ball. I can drive. I can pass. I talk. I think I’m a com­plete player in that as­pect. I just have to show it and prove it against high-level play­ers. I’m look­ing for­ward to it. I’m go­ing to take it and run with it.”

Ethan Miller, Getty Images file

Thomas Bro­pleh had a good ca­reer at Boise State af­ter star­ring for Den­ver’s Ge­orge Wash­ing­ton High School.

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