Cole Aldrich and his wife were in Italy when the former Bloomington Jefferson big man signed a three-year, $22 million free agent deal with the Timberwolves.
Thursday he was on the phone from Helsinki, Finland.
“We’re getting spoiled,” he said.
It’s been quite the summer of travel for Aldrich, who is in Finland as part of the NBA’s Basketball Without Borders program. Run in conjunction with FIBA, it is an instruction and development program for teenage players. In this case Aldrich and Timberwolves assistant Ryan Saunders are at the camp, which is drawing players from all around Europe.
“On our team right now, of the nine guys, probably safe to say six are from different countries,” Aldrich said. “It’s incredible to see how talented these kids are at 17 years old.”
It’s also helpful that most of the players can understand English.
“This is really fulfilling for me,” Aldrich said. “I love teaching kids how to play. Just some small things here and there that I’ve learned over the course of my career. The greatest thing is that this gives them happiness. That’s what it’s all about. Just trying to change the world and put an impact on it.”
Perhaps the biggest journey Aldrich has taken is the trip back home to play for the Timberwolves after spending six NBA seasons with five teams.
“I’m so excited. We work out before camp starts every morning,” Aldrich said of he and Saunders. “I think it’s going to be a big year for us.”
Aldrich and Saunders go back a few years. While at the University of Minnesota, Saunders spent a summer coaching Aldrich’s AAU team. This past August the two were together on the Timberwolves Caravan that traveled around the area.
This is Aldrich’s second time with BWB; he went to Johannesburg, South Africa, a few years ago. For Saunders, it is a first.
“This is a cool thing to be a part of,” Saunders said. “You get to see the world, and you have a chance to grow the game, see what other countries have to offer in terms of basketball.”
The two will return soon, then have a couple weeks of preparation before Wolves training camp begins. Aldrich worked this summer with locally based trainer Bill Welle — something he has done for a few years now.
“We’re working on finding ways of getting through a season healthy,” Aldrich said. “For me, that’s the biggest thing to help my career, sustaining it through an 82-game season.”