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Crazy year puts Archbishop Wood product Andrew Funk in NBA range

08/14/2023, 4:00pm EDT
By Josh Verlin

Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)

Andrew Funk’s last twelve months couldn’t have gone much better. After putting off professional basketball for one more season, he went from a Patriot League standout to a Penn State legend, turning a big season and breakout NCAA Tournament performance into an NBA contract.

“It’s everything I could have expected,” he said, “and then some.”

Yeah, it’s been a crazy year for the Archbishop Wood product, and it’s not over yet. But it’s already been quite a journey for the Bucks County product, who’s always been just a little overlooked, even while those around him knew his potential.

As an underclassman at Wood, Funk was an somewhat-awkward young shooting guard, not nearly the same polished player as his older brother Tommy Funk, a 5-foot-11 point guard who went on to set the Patriot League’s all-time assist record while at Army (2016-20). Andrew, then around 6-foot-3, wasn’t as fast or as skilled with the ball in his hands, though he was always a better shooter. 

Archbishop Wood product Andrew Funk signed an Exhibit 10 contract with the Denver Nuggets this summer. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL File)

He matured physically over his junior and senior years, growing closer to his current 6-5 frame, that shot still falling, earning himself a number of low-to-mid-major offers, picking Bucknell over Delaware and Penn. Still far from fleet afoot when compared to the area’s quickest guards, and best as a catch-and-shoot threat, he needed a little time to adjust to the college speed and game. 

Up in Lewisburg (Pa.), Funk averaged just under five points per game as a freshman, seeing just under 15 minutes per game in all 33 contests. He jumped into the starting lineup as a sophomore, starting 76 games over the next three seasons in a Bucknell uniform, averaging 17.6 ppg, 3.6 rpg and 3.0 apg and earning first team All-Patriot League honors by his senior year. 

Had it not been for the COVID pandemic and the extra year of eligibility the NCAA granted upon all student-athletes affected by the shortened 2020-21 season, Funk would have graduated from Bucknell in the spring of 2022, signed an overseas contract and started his professional career in Europe, South America, maybe Asia or Australia, wherever he could find a spot — “which would have been completely fine, I was completely okay with,” Funk said. 

Instead, he opted to take advantage of his extra season — his size, shooting ability, and collegiate experience making him a valuable option for high-major programs who needed someone with his skillset. 

Penn State and second-year head coach Micah Shrewsberry quickly emerged as a top option, the Nittany Lions adding some key pieces to a strong core, still room left for someone who could knock down triples at a high rate. Funk committed to Shrewsberry, even if he didn’t completely buy the bill of goods the now-Notre Dame head coach sold him. 

“I don’t know if I fully believed him when he was recruiting me and telling me things like, ‘Yeah,  you’re going to have a shot to play in the NBA, we’re going to have a great year,’ and all of that type of stuff,” Funk said. 

“Obviously I always had the belief in myself, but to be really honest with you, I wasn’t even thinking about it — I was so focused this year, it was so different from my years at Bucknell. We’re flying charter to road games in the conference, we’re playing Michigan and we’re playing Purdue and whatever, so it was just kind of a whirlwind in and of itself.”

Funk got his Penn State season off to a good start, scoring 22 points in a win over Winthrop and had 21 in a loss to Virginia Tech, the Nittany Lions getting off to a 6-2 start heading into the Big Ten opener, a home contest against Michigan State.

“I had that one circled, like I’m going to really find out [how good I am],” he said, “and I had like two points, I played the worst game of the season that game.”

He bounced back nicely in the next one, shooting 6-of-9 from the 3-point arc, scoring 20 points as Penn State beat Illinois. Funk said that game was “huge for me [... ] I definitely needed that confidence boost, it valdated to me that I can do what I do at this level.”

After a terrific Bucknell career, Funk springboarded his career at Penn State. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL File)

Funk crossed the 20-point barrier five more times that season (eight overall), averaging 12.5 ppg on .444/.412/.867 splits. He became a fan favorite, social media blowing up with every one of his triples, the intensity ramping up with each consecutive make.

The Nittany Lions had an up-and-down year but found their footing just in time, winning five of their last regular-season games and then making it all the way to the Big Ten championship game as the No. 10 seed. Their 22-13 (10-10) record was enough to earn a No. 10 seed in the NCAA Tournament, snapping a 12-year drought in March Madness.

Funk saved his best for last, going 8-of-10 from downtown for a 27-point outing to down Texas A&M in the first round, cementing his spot in Nittany Lions lore forever. For a Bucks County kid, there’s no better spot to do it.

“That’s where the Penn State thing comes (in),” he said. “Everyone’s hitting me up after the game: ‘Dude, saw the game, that was awesome, congrats.’”

It was late in the season, as the Nittany Lions were making its postseason push — they ended up losing to Texas in the second round — that Funk first heard that he might have a future playing professional ball domestically instead of overseas.

“I remember I was sitting in [assistant] coach [Adam] Fisher’s office, and he was like yeah, the (Thunder) scout hit me up about you today or the Magic scout hit me up about you, something like that, and I was like, ‘Oh I haven’t even really been thinking of that, do you think that’s a real possibility?’ And he was like ‘yeah dude, you’re playing awesome.’”

Funk, after signing with agent Daniel Harrison, ended up working out for five NBA teams: the Spurs, Hornets, Jazz, Celtics…and the Nuggets. 

Though he would have been happy with any type of attention from the Association, there was no doubt who Funk wanted to play for. The Nuggets not only had just drafted his Penn State teammate Jalen Pickett early in the second round, but they also had Funk’s former Archbishop Wood teammate Collin Gillespie on the roster. Gillespie signed a two-way contract with the Nuggets as an undrafted free agent last year, but injured his leg in an offseason game and missed the whole 2022-23 season. 

Six years and change after they won a state championship together with Wood, Gillespie and Funk shared a backcourt once again, wearing NBA jerseys with their names on the back.

“It’s awesome, it’s so full circle,” Funk said. “It really was so comfortable — it’s been six years, we’re completely different players than we were six years ago in high school, but it was so comfortable just because that’s been my guy since we played together in high school.

“After the games I was really thinking about it, like wow, we’re two dudes from the suburbs of Philadelphia, we ended up winning a PCL championship together, and then we somehow ended up playing for the same NBA summer league team, what are the chances of this? Kind of wrapping your head around it makes it sound really special, and it really was.”

Funk’s NBA experience isn’t over. He played well enough in Vegas — where he roomed with former Jersey Shore Warriors teammate Taylor Funk, playing with the Heat this summer — to earn an Exhibit 10 contract with the Nuggets, giving him an opportunity to come to Denver for training camp in September, a G League appointment his most likely destination. 

In the meanwhile, he’s been back home in Bucks County, working out with trainer Seth Brunner alongside a number of other pros with local ties, continuing to focus on his body and his conditioning to be in as good a shape as possible when he gets to the Mile High City.

Far from that awkward kid at Archbishop Wood almost a decade ago, Andrew Funk is now a bona fide local star. Any trip to Chipotle confirms it.

“I get a lot of different looks now, for sure,” he said. “But nothing too crazy.”

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