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Jeff Kolpack, Published June 23 2010

Woodside's NBA dream is alive thanks to spot on Warriors' Summer League team

One year removed from North Dakota State, it was a real world for Ben Woodside. For the first time in his life, he wasn’t around family and friends. For the first time, English wasn’t a language he could take for granted.

That was life in France, where Woodside played in the country’s top professional basketball league.

“Every day I’m looking at signs I can’t read,” he said.

But on the court, all signs continue to point to keeping his NBA dream alive. Woodside will play for the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas, which runs July 9-18. It’s a chance for him to not only showcase his ability to the Warriors, but to everybody else as well, including top European clubs.

Practically any playing time would be better than last year’s Summer League experience with the Minnesota Timberwolves. He played about 10 minutes – total. Granted, the Wolves had first-round draft pick Jonny Flynn, who like Woodside is a point guard, but Woodside also played behind a couple of other guards as well.

That shouldn’t be a problem this time around, said Brad Ames, Woodside’s Chicago-based agent.

“They’ve followed him all year and studied some tape,” Ames said. “For the summer league, there are a couple of different aspects such as what the roster looks like and the chance for him to make it. In the shorter term is the opportunity for playing time.”

He’s a year older now and a year wiser on and off the court. He averaged 14.5 points and 5.0 assists for BCM Gravelines, which reached the semifinals of the French Cup Championship. Living alone for the first time, he said the friendship of his teammates saved him from “solitary confinement.”

“It broadened my horizons as far as living in a different culture,” he said. “It was a different experience but I enjoyed doing it. Being by myself for 10 months, you can figure out who you are. I think personally I really grew as a person.”

The French Cup is considered an athletic European league. No longer the constant No. 1 scoring option like he was in college, he said he got more involved in the offense as a playmaker. He was selected to the French National Basketball League’s mid-season all-star team as a starter – a big deal, especially for a rookie.

“I think people will be surprised how much better he is in a lot of different aspects,” Ames said. “With the French league, it’s a lot more physical from a guard’s perspective. They don’t call the hand checks and the ticky tack fouls that you see over here.”

Said Woodside: “Hopefully people see me play in a professional league and say, ‘OK, he’s proven himself, let’s take a chance on him.’ I think as far as my stock goes, it comes down to me proving myself.”

Given enough minutes next month in Las Vegas, he hopes to do just that. He’s currently back in Fargo training for the Summer League, was recently engaged to Fargo North and NDSU graduate Amanda Durick and by this fall, will be back in the pro game somewhere.

So, too, most likely, will former teammates Mike Nelson and Brett Winkelman. Winkelman played well in Italy and Poland this past year and Nelson played for the Sioux Falls Skyforce in the NBA D-League.

“Winks had a great year, overseas teams love winners,” Woodside said. “And Mike is a legit European player. He can play overseas.”

Jeff Kolpack can be heard on the WDAY Golf Show, 10 a.m. to noon on WDAY-AM (970). He can be reached at (701) 241-5546.

Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found

at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia