PORTLAND, Ore. — Jacob Wiley’s basketball career has taken a long and winding path full of potholes, moving from Montana University to NAIA school Lewis & Clark and then to Eastern Washington, where he suddenly emerged as Big Sky player of the year last season before the Nets eventually gave him a two-way contract to play for them and the G-League Long Island Nets.
But he arrived at the NBA stop closest to Eastern Washington and his former home in Newport, Washington expecting to play an important bench role off when the Nets faced the Trail Blazers Friday night at Moda Center. Wiley got a 21-minute stint Tuesday in Denver, where he had four points and eight rebounds in his first meaningful NBA action after two previous cameos.
“It’s extremely special,” Wiley said. “I really wasn’t expecting this. I was expecting to be on the Long Island team, but the slew of injuries on this team forced me on this road trip. It means a lot. It’s been a crazy journey and to be with these guys, I feel really blessed.”
Wiley saw extended time against the Nuggets because forwards Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Trevor Booker missed the game with injuries. Hollis Jefferson returned Friday, but the Nets were without center Tyler Zeller (illness).
Describing his experience against the Nuggets, Wiley said, “It was surreal, but the coaches work really hard to help you stay ready.”
Nets coach Kenny Atkinson liked what he saw from Wiley, saying, “I thought he was good the other night, good energy, eight rebounds. We need his rebounding and his energy.”
Wiley was expecting a large contingent of friends and family to attend. “I have a lot of people in Portland and all over the Northwest,” Wiley said. “It was special when we played the Lakers in L.A, where I grew up (in nearby Long Beach). Then, to come up here on this road trip is really special as well.”