Long shot chases dream with Timberwolves

There are long shots, and then there are long shots.

And then there is Ben Woodside, who epitomizes the longest of the long shots at the NBA Summer League.

Woodside, a 5-foot-11-inch rookie shooting guard from North Dakota State, is at the opposite end of the spectrum from Blake Griffin. Yet, his dreams are the same, even if his chances of playing in the NBA this fall aren’t.

Unlike Griffin, this year’s No. 1 draft pick from Oklahoma who is guaranteed millions, Woodside is an undrafted free agent, comes from a small school few have heard of and is guaranteed nothing, not even minutes with the Minnesota Timberwolves this week in Las Vegas.

In three games, he has played 81/2 minutes and never got off the bench in Friday’s 89-82 win over Washington at Cox Pavilion.

That’s a tough way to make any kind of impression, good or bad. Yet Woodside isn’t complaining.

“It’s been a wonderful experience,” he said. “It’s been fun being part of the summer league. “It’s a little different when you get limited minutes and you have to make something happen. Whenever I get the chance to get in, I’ve just got to try and make the most of it.”

Woodside had an excellent college career. His senior year was particularly impressive, as he led the Bison in scoring at 23.2 points per game. He had 60 points in a double-overtime loss to Stephen F. Austin and tied Pete Maravich’s NCAA record for free throws made in a game with 30.

In March in the Summit League Tournament championship game, he hit a jump shot at the buzzer to lift North Dakota State over Oakland (Mich.) and give the Bison their first NCAA Tournament trip.

“You dream of hitting a game winner,” Woodside said. “You’re in the gym practicing or in the playground or in the driveway; you fantasize about being the hero. And then, when you do it, it feels even better. It’s amazing.”

In his one NCAA Tournament game, Woodside provided memories to last a lifetime. He had 37 points against Kansas, putting a scare into the defending national champion Jayhawks before they advanced to the second round with an 84-74 victory.

Heady stuff for a kid from Albert Lea, Minn., a town of 18,356 that borders six lakes and is located 90 miles south of the Twin Cities.

Yet all that is history. Woodside knows he’s in an uphill battle to make it to the NBA.

David Kahn, the Timberwolves’ president of basketball operations, said he’s not sure if his team has a place for Woodside. But he wanted to take a good look at him this week to see if he has a future in Minnesota.

“I wanted to bring him in,” Kahn said. “He did some pretty remarkable things in college.”

Kahn admits there are questions as to whether Woodside can compete at the NBA level.

“The game here is a little faster than he anticipated,” Kahn said, referring to the summer league, not the real NBA, which is warp speed compared to Las Vegas. “But he seems to be adjusting. His size is a factor. If he was a little taller, it would help him.

“The thing is, he can really shoot it, so you just can’t write this kid off. He’s a gamer.”

Woodside knows all the obstacles in front of him. Yet he is undeterred.

“I wasn’t disappointed I didn’t get drafted,” he said. “I knew there was a chance I wouldn’t, but there are other ways to make a splash.

“I know I’m going to play somewhere. I still have a lot of basketball left in me.”

Contact reporter Steve Carp at scarp@ reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2913.

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