Two Philadelphia-area point guards and St. Joe’s grads sat next to each other Tuesday night in Philadelphia, smiling and cracking jokes at an event co-hosted by USA Basketball and Red Bull to promote 3x3 basketball.
Jameer Nelson, a 14-year NBA veteran, and Natasha Cloud, a WNBA champion this past season with the Washington Mystics, also share an interest in coaching.
Nelson interviewed for the St. Joe’s job last year, which ultimately went to Billy Lange.
“It is what it is,” he said. “I’m not bitter about the situation, it is what it is. I wish them nothing but luck. That was just the ideal situation for me. I live 15 minutes from the university, I know Philly basketball, know enough people to be able to recruit, had other things in place.
"That would have been something that would have kind have been a home run, but it didn’t happen.”
He now works as an in-studio college basketball analyst for CBS Sports Network.
It’s been fun,” Nelson said. “It’s been challenging because I’ve gotta learn, I’ve gotta prep, I’ve gotta do homework. It’s keeping me occupied. More importantly, I’m a dad and a husband. Make up for that lost time, for those 14 years where everything was around me. They sacrificed for me, now I’m sacrificing for them.
Nelson’s son, Jameer Nelson Jr., has averaged 10.4 points and 4.4 rebounds as a freshman guard at George Washington, and Nelson said he’s “beyond ecstatic for him as an individual and a player.”
Outside of more time with his family, it sounds like other aspirations down the line make broadcasting appealing to Nelson.
“It keeps me around the game, and it challenges me,” he said. “When I do decide to coach or become a GM or whatever in the front office, I won’t be left behind. I’m still involved.”
Two of his former St. Joe’s teammates, Dwayne Jones and John Bryant, are on the Sixers’ coaching staff, with Jones serving as a player development coach and Bryant an assistant coach. Nelson said he tries to keep in touch with the two “as much as possible,” but that it’s difficult during the NBA season.
Meanwhile, the 28-year-old Cloud has a clear idea of what she wants to do once her playing career is over.
I would love to go back to St. Joe’s and be a coach, and take over the program,” she said. “I really think that I can have an impact. I don’t necessarily think that college basketball always does things the right way, especially with vulnerable 18- to 23-year-old men and women. So, I want to do things the right way, I want to share my love and passion for the game and help build and mould those young athletes.
A Broomall, Pennsylvania, native, Cloud played at Cardinal O’Hara High School and spent the final three seasons of her college career at St. Joe’s after transferring from Maryland. Though a key member of the Mystics’ championship-winning team who backed up a victory guarantee for Game 5 of the WNBA Finals with an 18-point, five-rebound performance, she had to travel to China to play with the Zhejiang Golden Bulls for financial reasons.
“It was really difficult, just from a frustration point — you work so hard,” she said. “This has been my dream, to win a WNBA championship, and I get to that point and a week later, I have to go fly to China. There’s no celebrating, there’s no parade, there’s no embracing anything with D.C. — it’s just kind of, you’re on to the next thing.
“We have a new CBA now, but at that point it’s like, our means of being financially stable, we get from being overseas. Having to go play and you’re playing in a league that just isn’t the same as the WNBA — it’s not a bad league, but it’s just not the caliber that the WNBA is at — it was definitely tough to get through.”
Cloud has been influential outside of basketball, winning the WNBA’s Dawn Staley Community Leadership Award in 2019. She values her work in the community and is passionate about the issue of gun violence. This season, Cloud held a media blackout to call attention to incidents of gun violence at Hendley Elementary School.
“It’s not just a Southeast D.C. problem, it’s not just a D.C. problem, it’s a country-wide problem,” she said. “Just using my platform, knowing I can be a voice for the voiceless and taking on that responsibility. The youth is super important to not only to me, but [for] the development of us as a country, as a society. I think they’re the change that needs to happen, so we need to protect them at all costs.”
‘The Dennis Rodman of 3x3’
Cloud and Nelson weren’t the only athletes at the event. Sitting a couple chairs down on the panel, next to Sixers in-arena host Christian Crosby, was Robbie Hummel. A former standout at Purdue and NBA player, Hummel was the MVP of the FIBA 3x3 World Cup in 2019.
He was set to lead the United States team later this month in the Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Bengaluru, India — yes, 3x3 is now an Olympic sport — but the tournament has been postponed because of the coronavirus outbreak.
Hummel described the nuances, strategies and development of the fast-paced game, explaining the 12-second shot clock, uneven and lax refereeing, in his estimation — with a laugh, he called himself the “Dennis Rodman of 3x3” because of his profane rants against officials — and emphasis on long-distance shooting. Makes beyond the arc count as two points, with makes inside the arc worth one.
“Our strategy is in pick-and-roll, the big is back and the guard goes over the top,” Hummel said. “I start with that because our philosophy is if a team is making 21 pull-ups or 21 tough, contested layups, we’re going to make enough two-pointers — it’s an analytics things. This is like a [Rockets GM] Daryl Morey deal right here. We’ll make enough two-pointers to win regardless of what they’re doing.”
While 3x3 isn’t going to overtake 5-on-5 basketball, Hummel, Cloud and Nelson all think it can be part of the sport’s future.
But, though 3x3 is obviously a priority at the moment for the 31-year-old Hummel, Nelson joked that he wasn’t suited for it as a “stubby point guard from Chester.”
Like Cloud, he has other things on his plate.
“I’m never going to rule anything out,” he said. “I tell people all the time … Will I coach? I don’t know, but I think I would make a good coach. Will I be a GM? I don’t know. … It’s kind of one of those things where for the last 25 years I’ve done the same thing, so I’m trying broadcasting. Right now, I’m loving it.”
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