Luke Nelson(BAXI Manresa/British National Team) Is Focusing On Defense And Ball Handling To Become A More Versatile Guard

Luke Nelson is a 24 year old 191cm guard from Worthing, England playing his fourth professional season and first with BAXI Manresa (Spain-Liga ACB) currently averaging 4,7ppg, 1,7rpg and 1,0apg in the ACB league. In the Basketball Champions League averaged 11,4ppg, 1,3rpg and 3,1apg and shot 45% from outside. In 2017-2018 he played with Betis Energia Plus Sevilla (Spain-Liga ACB) playing 34 games averaging 8.2ppg, 2.1rpg, 1.7apg, 1.1spg, FGP: 47.7%, 3PT: 41.0%, FT: 77.1%. He played at the : University of California – Irvine (NCAA) from 2013-2017 playing a total of 116 NCAA games and as a senior played 17 games averaging 17.0ppg, 3.4rpg, 3.1apg, 1.7spg, FGP: 47.9%, 3PT: 42.7%, FT: 69.0%. He began his basketball career with the Reading Rockets (EBL). He spoke a few days ago and last night helped lead Great Britain to a 81-73 victory over Germany leading all scorers with 26 points.

Luke thanks for talking to Where are you at the moment and how is basketball life treating you at the moment?

My pleasure! I am currently playing for BAXI Manresa in the ACB, and I am really enjoying basketball again now after missing the entire 2018/19 season due to injury, feel really good to be playing again

Your currently with the British national team participating in qualifying games for the 2021 European championships. What kind of a feeling do you have putting on the British jersey?

I always feel great pride when representing GB! There is something special about doing what you love for you country and I’m happy to be a part of the program.

What is the current state of British basketball. In the past it had NBA players, but in the last few years, it has been a changing of the guard.

It’s always been an uphill fight for us, but we are definitely on the right path. The program has improved a lot since the Olympics in London, and now it’s our job to keep the progression going.

Where do you see British basketball going in the next years. The current team has experience and you are one of the younger guys on the team. How much potential does British basketball have?

We have a good, talented group of guys at the moment, both players and coaches, so now we need to learn to put it all together and get positive results in games.

You play at home against Germany on Monday. Germany is very young and has no NBA players with them. What kind of game can we await and what will be key to winning?

We can’t worry too much about who is and isn’t playing for them, we have to focus on us and what we need to do to beat the 12 players that are in Newcastle on Monday. I think it will be a competitive game, and our key to winning will be our defense. That side of the ball has always been a strength for us

Talk a little about the future players like Killeya-Jones or Carl Weatle? How much potential do they have and what other players can we expect to see more of in the future?

Sacha and Carl are both talented players and I don’t know if I’d call them ‘future’ players because they both are playing at a good level in Europe and are competing for minutes right now, but the future of British basketball is in safe hands.

Who would win a one on one in practice tomorrow you or talented guard Devon Von Oostrum?

I’ve never actually played with or against Devon, but growing up he was a couple years older and was clearly one of the best players at every European championship, so I kind of saw him as the bar I wanted to reach and hopefully surpass! But in terms of a one on one, i’d always pick myself, regardless of the competition!

How is your role different with the British national team in comparison to Manresa or isn’t there so much difference?

I think the main difference is the system, and because of that I probably play a little differently. When you’re at your club, the coach has a lot of time to implement his systems and enforce offensive and defensive discipline, but in these short international windows, there isn’t nearly enough time for that, so schemes are a lot different.

You have always been a consistent scorer, but can do a little of everything. If you had to compare your game to an NBA player who would best fit the description?

I’d like to say someone like Lou Williams, but I don’t watch nearly enough NBA games to really know

You shot the ball very well from outside as a senior at UC-Irvine, as a rookie and currently in the BCL. What has been your secret to steadily becoming a very good three point scorer. Has it only been reps and shot selection or did you actually change something up on your mechanics?

The main thing is to keep confidence in my shot high, and for me that means getting up extra reps.

Your shot has been improved, but on what other things are you currently working on to keep improving your game as you move up the basketball ladder?

I will always work to improve my shot, but I focus a lot on improving my defense and ball handling so I can become a more versatile guard.

How rewarding has this season been with Manresa for you considering you missed all of last season because of a sprained left ankle. Are you content that all your hard work has paid off this season?

It’s felt great to be playing again, but I am still working to get my ankle stronger and quicker every day, so I can put the surgery and last year completely behind me.

Your playing your second full season in the ACB one of the top leagues in the world. How do stay hungry to keep wanting to get better? Are goals like Spanish Euroleague team or Euroleague teams in general the biggest goal or is the NBA realistic after having played NBA Summer League a few years ago?

My goal right now is find some consistency with Manresa as I feel my performances have been too up and down. But my overall goal is to play at the highest level I possibly can, but to do that I have to focus on each year individually and think more short term so I keep improving.

How vital is it having teammate Ryan Toolson? Is he like a mentor for you? He has experienced so much and can shoot out the lights?

It’s been great to see Ryan do what he does, and guarding him in practices has helped me a lot to see why he is so efficient and effective. It’s easy to see why he’s had such a long successful career in Europe.

You played your rookie season with Betis Energia Plus Sevilla (Spain-Liga ACB) playing 34 games averaging 8.2ppg, 2.1rpg, 1.7apg, 1.1spg, FGP: 47.7%, 3PT: 41.0%, FT: 77.1%. What was your wake up call to being a professional rookie in Europe where you were very far away from California?

there wasn’t anything specific that was a wake up call really, just the daily grind of a long season was enough to let me know that I am a pro now!

As a rookie you had veteran Blake Schilb on board, another great guard you had the opportunity to be teammates at a young age. What do you remember being able to soak up best from his game that helped you as a rookie?

Blake’s demeanor was something that stuck out to me. He was always under control and knew what he was trying to do offensively and never seemed rushed. that is something that I hope to be able to feel throughout my career

How important was it scoring 15 points against FC Barcelona as a rookie. Was this a moment where you knew that you had arrived on the professional stage?

I don’t think so, I feel like it was a few games before that when we beat Zaragoza at home and I had a strong 4th quarter that helped us win the game. Playing well doesn’t mean much to me if we don’t win as well.

Is this a game that you will forever remember because you played against Spanish basketball legend Juan Carlos Navarro?

I didn’t really appreciate this until the next day, because before and during the game I was thinking about how to win the matchup and help my team win, but then after I thought about it, I realized what a legend he is, especially in Spain

You played at the University of California-Irvine from 2013-2017. Being around the Los Angeles area how do you remember seeing the legacy of Kobe Bryant there?

Kobe fans are some of the craziest people in America! They loved him so much it was almost annoying! But only greatness can inspire that kind of love. Hearing stories from one of my coaches, Ryan Badrtalei, who was close with him and his family, was amazing.

What was your biggest achievement there? Was it possibly reaching the Big West final in 2017?

It was definitely winning the big west tournament and playing in the NCAA tournament in 2015.

Will you always remember your 29 point explosion in the win over Hawaii more than your 29 point game against Cal-Davis where you lost by 30 points and the team scored only 49 points?

If we win, I’m happy! so I much more likely to remember those

Was your 36 point outburst against Cal Poly-SLO your best and most memorable game in the NCAA?

That was probably my best offensive game, but the most memorable was the game against Louisville in the NCAA tournament in 2015

How did head coach Russell Turner groom and prepare you best for a professional basketball career?

He has a great passion for the game and he demanded that of us as players, and that’s something I hope to carry through to the end of my career.

Who won a one on one in practice you or Jaron Martin?

I loved competing with and against Jaron for those 4 years, but it was pretty equal over those years, but I was probably a little ahead by the end!

Who was the toughest player that you battled in the NCAA that reached the NBA?

Not many players from the Big West have made it to the NBA, but I remember David Nwaba being an intense defender and has played for a few NBA teams in the last few years.

Please name your 5 best teammates of all-time?

Jaron Martin was a great teammate and fun to play with and watch play and is one of my best friends to this day. Kingsley Okoroh and Mo Soluade are guys I’ve played with for national teams since we were all 13 years old, and I’ve loved being around them and playing with them as we all grew up.

Please name your own personal NBA Mount Rushmore of current or past NBA players?

Lebron MJ Kareem Kobe

What is your own opinion of the neverending debate of who is the greatest of all-time Michael Jordan or Lebron James and where does Kobe Bryant fill into the equation?

As great as Kobe was, I think the debate is between Lebron and MJ. But I personally think Lebron wins, maybe because I grew up watching him, but I think he’s dominated basketball for too long not to say its him.

Thanks Luke for the chat.

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