By Dean “The Sportsman” Greenaway
On a fall Saturday evening when he was waved by the Minnesota Timberwolves, Kleon Penn—the first British Virgin Islands basketball player on a NBA team training camp roster—knew where he’d be spending summer 2016.
Penn was waved by the Minnesota Timberwolves over the weekend ahead of Tuesday’s 2015-16 season opener on.
“This has just been a dream and I’m happy that I’ve been here,” said Penn who was signed on Sept 18 and spent a full six weeks on the Timberwolves’ roster. “I really can’t complain about anything really and truly. Everything has just been amazing—even better than I thought—just they way they took care of you, the professionalism, everything.”
Penn said while things are similar to experiences he has had elsewhere, it’s the finer details that stand out. As an example, he noted that one time when Kevin Garnett was in practice they were walking through plays, the intensity he brings.
“He doesn’t just walk through plays. If he’s playing defense, he’s in his stance—he’s always down,” Penn explained. “If he hedging, he’s not playing hedging just because he’s suppose to do it, he’s doing a real hedge. He’s also telling you to practice with that intensity—even if it’s just something light—practice with that intensity and it will be easier in the game. Little fine details like that got me thinking how it will help me be a better player, a better teammate, just better overall.”
While he saw limited action in three games against Toronto, Memphis and Chicago, the 6”11 big man said it was exciting being in the environment and at the practice facilities.
“Even though I didn’t get to play a lot, just to see the real speed of an NBA game, it was really good for me,” he stated. “It showed me how basketball should be played. In practices, they emphasized running—running on defense, running on offense. It’s really slowed down in Puerto Rico. They walk the ball up, but in the NBA, it’s none of that. You’re running here and you’re running there. That type of speed would be beneficial for me as a big man running up and down the floor, so I can beat their big man, get easy baskets and early posts ups—that will help me score easier and help the team win more basketball games. That training camp whips people into shape. I’m definitely in shape now.”
Following his waiver, Penn was speaking with Timberwolves general manager Milt Newton of St. Thomas, who has invited him to return for next year’s summer league. Penn said he couldn’t be judged much by practice and he didn’t get a lot of game time. “He just told me to keep working and he wants me to come back for the summer league so he can see me playing more minutes,” Penn said. “He told me I definitely got better during the training camp because I came here hurt with an ankle injury from the CBC Championships and they had to treat me the whole time, so I was basically way behind by time I got here. So, he encouraged me to keep working and he’ll see me in the summer league.”
While his ankle is still swollen and he couldn’t bend when he arrived, Penn said it has gotten a lot better from the rehabilitation work he has received. “Other than the bone swelling, it’s good,” he said.