Uphill climb in pro ball likely for likes of Nelson, Moreland, Cunningham

by: TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Power forward Eric Moreland, who left Oregon State with one year of eligibility remaining, has been seeing summer league action with the Sacramento Kings in his bid to make an NBA roster.LAS VEGAS — Oregon State’s basketball presence hasn’t been widespread for years, but it was out there Sunday in the Las Vegas Summer League.

Three former teammates at OSU were in uniform as Sacramento upended Charlotte 72-65 at Cox Pavilion.

Eric Moreland, a 6-10 power forward who passed on his final season of eligibility with Oregon State next year, had a major role off the bench for the Kings.

Guard Jared Cunningham, once a first-round draft pick by Dallas, did not play for Sacramento.

And guard Roberto Nelson scored five points in two minutes in his first action for the Hornets.

Moreland, who was not chosen in the June NBA draft, collected four points, nine rebounds and four blocked shots in a 21-minute stint after not playing at all in the Kings’ summer-league opener against San Antonio on Friday.

Moreland had an acrobatic block and a gravity-defying offensive rebound in a 30-second span of the third quarter, but also went 0 for 2 from the field, missing a pair of shots at the rim.

“He played with a lot of energy, which he has been doing in practice,” said Sacramento assistant Tyrone Corbin, who ran the team Sunday. “He did a great job of staying ready, getting after it at both ends, blocking shots.”

“Just trying to get my feet wet,” Moreland said. “I’ve been working hard in practice, so I’m glad to see it turned out to give me some minutes. I felt good out there other than missing a couple of bunnies.”

Moreland wore a bandaid just under his right eye, the result of a collision with teammate Nick Wiggins’ tooth in practice.

“Had a couple of stitches,” Moreland said. “I’m fine, though.”

Moreland seemed very aware of new OSU coach Wayne Tinkle, mentioning that the Beavers played against Tinkle’s Montana Grizzlies during Moreland’s freshman season in 2011-12.

“Will Cherry was there, too,” said Moreland, the reference to the former Grizzly who scored 21 points on 9-for-13 shooting in Cleveland’s 82-70 win over San Antonio on Sunday.

Moreland announced for the NBA draft before Tinkle was hired, but said it wouldn’t have mattered.

“It would have been nice to know who the coach was going to be, and I wish I had a chance to meet him,” Moreland said. “Sounds like a great coach and a great man. But I’m happy with my situation.”

by: TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Roberto Nelson, who stood out for Oregon State as a scoring guard in games against the Oregon Ducks and others, is getting a look this summer as an undrafted free agent with the Charlotte Bobcats.Not so with Cunningham, who had gone scoreless in eight minutes against the Spurs. This is Cunningham’s third team as he enters what he hopes is his third NBA season. Corbin passed it off as strictly a matter of numbers, but the DNP/CD was an ominous sign for Cunningham.

“I don’t really know what’s happening, but I’ll stick with it,” he said. “Going into (summer league), I thought my spot was pretty secure. Right now, I’m not really sure.”

Nelson, who ended his career this winter as OSU’s No. 5 career scorer and led the Pac-12 in scoring for the second straight season, was all smiles after Sunday’s game. The 6-4 guard, picked up by Charlotte as an undrafted free agent, was happy to see the court after not playing in the Hornets’ opener.

“I’m blessed to be able to get into the game,” said Nelson, who missed a 3-point attempt and made both foul shots during his short stint. “It was fun to get out there. We have some good guards on this team, so I feel fortunate to play. I’ll learn from some older guys and the great coaching we have here.”

Nelson seems unlikely to make the Hornets, but he could get a chance to play in the NBA Development League or overseas.

“I’ll put my all into it,” Nelson said. “If I don’t make (an NBA roster), it doesn’t stop there. I’m going to keep working. It’s my life right now. I’m trying to represent Beaver Nation well.”

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