A STEP CLOSER TO HIS DREAM
Bropleh will suit up for the Nuggets in Vegas
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.”
Thomas Bropleh had a good career at Boise State after starring for Denver’s George Washington High School.