Nathan Krill has always wanted to go overseas and play professional basketball.
It’s been his goal. It’s been his dream. It’s what he has been striving to try and achieve.
He’s put in all kinds of work, playing three years at Wesleyan University, a small, private NCAA Division III school in Middletown, Connecticut, and then playing his final season of college basketball as a graduate transfer at the University of San Francisco, a member of the West Coast Conference.
“There’s been a lot of work, trying to get there, trying to play professionally,” said Krill, a 2014 Justin-Siena High School graduate and a resident of St. Helena. “I’ve been fortunate enough to have been given some opportunities and I have worked hard to get to get to where I am. I’m really looking forward to the chance to continue playing.”
There is more basketball ahead for Krill, a 6-foot-7, 220-pound forward. He signed a 10-month contract last week to play for New Heroes Basketball Den Bosch. The team is based in Den Bosch in the Netherlands and plays in the Dutch Basketball League.
“I’m really looking forward to it. It’s a clean slate going over there and I get to do something that I love. I get paid to do it. It’s the best of both worlds for sure,” said Krill.
“It’s a new chapter, a small window of your life to go play basketball. You’ve got to do it while you can. I’m really interested to just see the level of play in the foreign countries.”
Krill drew the attention of New Heroes Basketball Den Bosch during exposure camps over a three-week period in July in Las Vegas, for which he trained in advance.
“All the NBA guys are out there. All these coaches are out there – scouts, agents, everyone is out there,” said Krill, 23. “It’s basically the basketball world. Anyone who plays basketball or is involved in that world is out in Vegas.”
Krill doesn’t have much of a bio sheet or background at the major college level, having played in just one game last year for USF. He participated in three separate camps in Las Vegas.
“You’ve never met these guys, and you try to play decent basketball with them,” he said. “I came from programs where we’ve played at a pretty high level. And so I’m trying to set screens, I’m telling you where to go. I think they just kind of saw that I that I had that ability to play, to run, to run an offense.”
A team from Brazil and a team from Australia showed interest in Krill during the first camp.
The second camp was the Michael Hart camp. Players are put on teams and there are games.
“I was limping into the third camp. It was tough,” he said. “I had blisters on my feet. I was struggling. I’ll be honest – it was like, ‘How am I going to get through this right now?’ It was tough to get through that last camp.”
Krill was noticed by New Heroes Basketball Den Bosch during the second camp. He was told at the end of the camp that he would be receiving an official offer.
“I think they could just see that I had that ability and that potential. You also have to be what they’re actually looking for. It just kind of worked out,” said Krill.
Krill leaves on Aug. 17 for the Netherlands. New Heroes Basketball Den Bosch, which has won 16 DBL titles, plays its home games at Maaspoort Sports & Events.
“Honestly, it’s like a dream,” he said. “This has been my goal since I was like a little kid, to play professional basketball. It’s like a dream come true. I don’t think it’s really hit me yet. I don’t think it has set in. Maybe once I get over there, it will be like, ‘Wow, I’ve actually done this.’ ”
Krill transferred to USF after playing three years at Wesleyan University. As a team captain and second-year starter, he averaged 12.2 points on 42.2 percent shooting from the floor and 38.2 percent from 3-point distance for Wesleyan during the 2017-18 season. He also shot 73.3 percent from the free-throw line.
Krill started all 29 games for Wesleyan and averaged 24.8 minutes, 8.6 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 1.2 steals per game.
Wesleyan (22-7 overall, 7-3 New England Small College Athletic Conference) received an at-large spot for the NCAA Division III Championships.
After beating visiting Southern Vermont in the first round, 101-71, Wesleyan lost to visiting Swarthmore in the second round, 97-75.
Krill scored 16 points and had 10 rebounds and two assists in 25 minutes in the game against Southern Vermont.
He scored eight points and had three rebounds, two steals and two blocks in 24 minutes in the game against Swarthmore.
Wesleyan won in the semifinals of the NESCAC Championships, 65-63 over Amherst as Krill hit the game-winning shot with 1.7 left on the clock.
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Krill scored 29 points on 10 of 17 shooting from the field and had 10 rebounds in 35 minutes.
Wesleyan lost in the championship game to Williams, 69-58. Krill scored 12 points and had six rebounds.
He used a medical redshirt his first year. He graduated from Wesleyan with a degree in sociology.
Krill said he sent emails to several colleges, most of which are in California, expressing an interest in trying to play basketball for one final season and enrolling in a master’s program. Included in the email were a highlight tape and his statistics from Wesleyan. He was looking for a chance to play his final season of college basketball for a West Coast school and to also pursue a master’s degree as a graduate transfer.
He got that chance from USF.
Krill scored two points in four minutes for host USF in an 88-54 win over Sonoma State at War Memorial at the Sobrato Center during the 2018-19 season.
He is in a professional communications master’s program. He will continue working on his master’s from the Netherlands and is hoping to complete the program in December.
The one season he spent with USF served as a great experience, said Krill.
“Obviously, I wanted to play. As any basketball player, you want to be on the court, and you want to be competing. But I really benefited a lot in the practices,” he said. “And I benefited from the mindset of what it takes to play it at a Division I level, the fact that it’s a job, which is different than a Division III level. The guys at Division III, they’re all really good basketball players. But they also want a college experience. They’re not just there to play basketball. They are there for the academics. At USF, it was like, we’re here to play basketball. We’re going to play a high level of basketball while we’re here.
“Everyone is a little bit quicker, a little bit faster, a little bit stronger, at that level. And so you kind of have to either adapt or get left behind. And so I got a lot better in the last year, even though I didn’t play. I also think I got a lot better by just watching. I had a front row seat at these games. I totally saw the game in a new way. And now I feel like I’m reading situations and kind of understanding where people are supposed to be more and I’m thinking the game through at a higher level. I wish I had played, but I would still do it over again. It was great, just to experience that high level.”
USF went 21-10 overall. The Dons lost in the quarterfinals of the West Coast Conference Tournament in Las Vegas, 89-72 to Pepperdine.
Training and preparing
Krill plays for the Oakland Believers in the San Francisco Pro-Am summer league at Kezar Pavilion.
He trains and works out each day. He has also been playing in local pick-up games at Pacific Union College in Angwin and St. Helena High.
Krill takes pride at playing with the same energy and effort at both ends of the floor.
“I’m good at attacking the rim. People have to respect my jump shot. If I have some space, I’m able to shoot the open shots. I pride myself on being a great rebounder and just kind of an energy guy. Never stop running. Always running, just having a high motor and never taking a possession or a play off.
“Defense has really been my focus in the last few years. It has to be a pride thing, like I’m not letting this guy score on me. I’m going to do whatever I can to not let him score and not let the other team score.”
Krill, a captain for the Braves, averaged 16.8 points, 11.8 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.1 steals per game his final year at Justin-Siena. He scored 20 or more points in four games for Justin-Siena.
He was named MVP and selected to the All-Tournament team at the Winter Wolf Classic at American Canyon High School.
He scored 50 points and had 45 rebounds during the Davis Tournament.
He played on two AAU tournament travel teams, 707’s Finest and Lakeshow.
It was his mom, Robin Rocha, who drove Nathan to practices and games around the Bay Area for three years.
“We had to drive to find the competition. So she was driving me to Oakland and Berkeley and San Francisco. We would go all over, trying to find people to work me out and people to play with.
“We’d spend hours in the car. I would get in the car. She would hand me a sandwich and a Gatorade. I’d eat my sandwich and then go to sleep for an hour, wake up and play basketball. We’d get back in the car and mom would drive me home. It would be like 9, 10 at night. I would do my homework for an hour and go to school the next day and do it all over again.”