NBA prospect Iverson has come a long way from days with U

  • Article by: JERRY ZGODA , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 24, 2013 - 8:14 AM

He averaged more than 14 points and nearly 10 rebounds at Colorado State after averaging 5.4 points and five rebounds in the best of three seasons with the Gophers.

More than two years after 14,000 fans watched him play across town at Williams Arena, former Gophers big man Colton Iverson worked out for several Timberwolves executives and coaches on Friday morning, six days before the NBA draft.

You should see him now, Gophers fans.

“Much improved … 200 percent improved,” said Flip Saunders, Wolves president of basketball operations. “The people in Minnesota, if they had seen him play [Friday], they wouldn’t think it’s the same guy. They would think it’s a transformation.”

Iverson played three seasons for the Gophers and coach Tubby Smith before he left seeking a fresh start elsewhere and transferred to Colorado State. He sat out that first season with the Rams, working daily with his new team’s coaching staff, changing his body and his game.

He averaged more than 14 points and nearly 10 rebounds at Colorado State after averaging 5.4 points and five rebounds in the best of three seasons with the Gophers.

“Just completely different,” Iverson said of the two players with the same name. “I’m not the slow slug you saw at Minnesota. I’ve slimmed down, toned up, really just improved all around.”

Saunders sees the changes in a guy who’s now confident in himself and his game and who has a legitimate chance to be drafted on Thursday night and earn an NBA job as a backup or third center.

“He was very mechanical when he was at Minnesota,” Saunders said Friday. “He got the ball and he predetermined the shots he wanted or how to play. Today, he showed more an ability how to play within the flow. He didn’t look stiff at all. He didn’t look like the same player.”

A banger who measured 7 feet in his sneakers last month at the Chicago draft combine, Iverson left Yankton, S.D., for the Twin Cities and the Big Ten five years ago, then left the Twin Cities for Fort Collins, Colo., and the Mountain West Conference.

“I just wasn’t improving,” he said when asked why he left the Gophers. “I felt I wasn’t getting the opportunities I wanted. I wanted to find a place where I could be a team leader and show what I could do on the court. … When I transferred, I worked really hard that transfer year. Some guys don’t take advantage of it. I took full advantage of it and I got better every day.”

He was asked if he would be on the verge of reaching the NBA if he had stayed.

“Tough to tell,” he said, hesitating for a count, “but probably not.”

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