The Next Step: Former Wisconsin Badger Jared Berggren strives to stick with the Orlando Magic

Jonathan Daniel

Wisconsin's all-time leading shot-blocker now has a spot in the NBA. He says he can be the guy to step in and do whatever it takes at the next level, but can he stick in Orlando?

On June 27, the NBA started what would become a crazy summer with its 2013 draft. Teams selected 60 players that evening who, in all likelihood, have at least a roster spot to compete for come fall camp. For those not drafted, the road to the next level became longer -- one that first involves competing in summer leagues for an invite to a team's fall camp.

Former Wisconsin Badgers standout Jared Berggren falls in the latter category, but nevertheless found his opportunity with the Orlando Magic. Starting Sunday, Berggren's road to an NBA roster runs through the Southwest Airlines Pro Summer League in Orlando.

"We went through the draft process last Thursday night, and I was kinda right on the bubble of being drafted or not, so it was a little nerve-racking watching it and not knowing if i'd be selected or not," Berggren said. "Pretty much immediately after the draft I was talking to my agent, and he said there were a lot of teams interested in bringing me in for summer league."

"There are plenty of opportunities. I'm just trying to go down there and put my best foot forward and try to show what I'm capable of."

With interest brewing from several NBA teams, Berggren and his agent, Brad Ames of Priority Sports, had several options to choose.

"From there, it was kind of [Ames] really just sifting through the teams -- who seems the most interested, who seems like the right fit for me to be able to make the team," Berggren said. "So we kinda looked at our different options and decided that going with Orlando would be the best opportunity for me to go down there, hopefully showcase what I can do and try to make the roster."

The Big Ten All-Defensive Team honoree will play on the Magic's summer league team alongside former conference rival & second overall pick Victor Oladipo, as well as former Milwaukee Bucks Tobias Harris and Doron Lamb. Berggren knows his chance in the summer league isn't just an opportunity to impress Orlando, which already boasts big men in Glen Davis and Nikola Vucevic, but also all NBA teams.

"Playing summer league, obviously all the teams are gonna be there watching," Berggren said. "They're gonna have scouts and GMs and coaches and whoever in the gym watching and evaluating.

"There are plenty of opportunities. I'm just trying to go down there and put my best foot forward and try to show what I'm capable of."

The 6-foot-10 forward/center believes his unique combination of strength and versatility can help him land on an NBA roster.

"I feel with my size and strength, I'm a guy that can play inside but can also step out and shoot it from the perimeter as well."

"I think that versatility is definitely a kind of a trend in the NBA. There's more and more big guys that are more well-rounded players, not just 'back-to-the-basket' guys but guys that can play in all different positions on the court, so I think I kind of fit in that same type of mold where I can contribute in multiple, different ways on the court and just trying to show teams that I'm going to be a guy that's gonna come in and work."

"I'm just gonna try to show teams I'm gonna do things with energy and with a positive attitude, and whatever the role is that a team needs to be filled, I'm a guy that can come in and get that done."

Although confident with his abilities, the Princeton, Minn., native knows he has to prove himself in the eyes of NBA scouts and general managers.

"I don't think I really played my best basketball at the end of the season at Wisconsin," Berggren said. "I kinda went through a prolonged shooting slump where I really didn't shoot the ball as well as I would have liked. I just had some games where I wasn't playing at my best.

"If they see a bad game or two, they might just kind of cross you off the list and think that you're a guy that maybe can't play at the next level. So I think through the whole pre-draft process, working out for teams, I think I kinda had to change the mindset of people. From talking with my agent and getting feedback from teams from what they saw in these workouts, I think I took a step in the right direction."

In his final year at Wiscosnin, Berggren averaged 11 points per game, along with almost seven rebounds and over two blocks per contest going against opponents in a talent-rich conference.

He believes the tough competition, especially with some of the more dominant big men in the Big Ten, helped him prepare for a chance at the next level.

"You look at the last few years, and there's guys like Jared Sullinger and Meyers Leonard from a few years back, and this past year with Cody Zeller," Berggren said. "I mean, for me, personally, those are three big guys that I went head-to-head with, and I thought I had pretty good success against guys that were all drafted in the first round.

"I think, against my head-to-head battles with them, I think I've shown I can defintiely hold my own with guys that are projected to be long-time NBA players."

The Magic start summer league play Sunday morning against the Boston Celtics. Berggren's journey to the NBA begins with five games in six days. His sole focus remains securing a spot on a NBA roster, whether on the Magic's or one of the 29 other teams. He knows he has to leave a lasting impression.

"Whatever it takes to contribute to the team's success, whether knocking down a few open jump shots or just battling inside, playing solid defense, getting some rebounds, maybe blocking a few shots, taking a charge -- just whatever it takes," Berggren said.

"I'm just gonna try to show teams I'm gonna do things with energy and with a positive attitude, and whatever the role is that a team needs to be filled, I'm a guy that can come in and get that done."

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