by Sheldon Ocker
LeBron James, all by himself, makes Bath Township a bedrock for basketball talent. But when it comes to quality and quantity within the township, nothing beats the Nance family.
Larry Sr. played 13 seasons in the NBA and was a three-time All-Star. Son Larry Jr. is starting his 10th season in the league as a member of the New Orleans Pelicans. Daughter Casey matriculated at the University of Dayton, where she ranks 13th all-time in rebounding and third in blocked shots.
The third Nance sibling, the youngest and tallest, Pete, played four years at Northwestern. Because his career coincided with the COVID-19 pandemic, he received a fifth year of eligibility and spent it at North Carolina last season, taking postgraduate classes.
Pete was signed to the Cleveland Cavaliers training camp roster this fall. Before training camp, He played on Cleveland’s Summer League team, getting his first taste of what it’s like to compete against other first-rate college players hungry to reach the NBA.
“It was definitely a higher level,” Pete said. “Shot making was at a higher level and the skill level was higher. In college, you have one or two [opposing] players to worry about. In the summer league, everybody can do something really well.”
Like his father and brother, Pete’s career has taken a U-turn back to Northeast Ohio, where the Nance name is treated with iconic reverence. The retired number 22 of Larry Sr. hangs from the rafters of Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse, and Larry Jr. played 3 ½ seasons in Cleveland, instantly becoming a fan favorite.
Basketball fans that trust in the mystique of the Nance name say it’s Pete’s turn to wear a Cavs jersey. That won’t be easy. As an undrafted free agent, the team has very little invested in Pete.
That doesn’t mean the coaching staff isn’t paying attention. Club officials are keenly aware that a 6’11” player who was a power forward/center at two major colleges and makes 3-point shots can be a valuable commodity.
“I’m super happy to be here with the Cavs; I think they like me,” said Pete, who said the Los Angeles Lakers also showed interest in signing him.
Pete auditioned twice for the Cavaliers: before he transferred to North Carolina and before this year’s draft.
One reason he played an extra season of college basketball was the realization that he would not be highly sought after in last year’s draft.
“It was hard to pass up an opportunity to play for a school like North Carolina,” he said. “And my draft situation was not what I wanted it to be. Having the extra year really helped me a lot.”
If Pete does not make Cleveland’s final roster, the Cavs might send him to the Charge, their G-League team, where young players can continue to develop. There is no guarantee that G-Leaguers will end up in the NBA, but many of them do.
“I would be excited to play with the Charge this year,” Pete said.
Pete doesn’t sense that the Cavs have pegged him as a one-position player.
“I think it could be a little of both,” he said of playing center and forward. “I’m just getting my feet wet, but I can play either. I think that’s a strength of mine.”
Pete is happy to be home, close to his family and former classmates at Revere High School. He is living in his brother’s house while Larry Jr. is at the Pelicans’ training camp.
“I’m keeping up the house for him, and I have the whole place to myself,” Pete said. “All my friends are here; it’s nice to hang out with them. So, it’s been awesome.”
Returning home heightens the high expectations local fans have for Pete. After all, he is a Nance.
“There are definitely two sides to it,” he said. “There are a lot of positives. They [family members] are amazing role models, and they have walked the same path that I am trying to walk. At the same time, living up to people’s expectations can be challenging.” ∞