It was like old home day at the Zions Bank Basketball Center Saturday where an assemblage of familiar faces, headed by BYU forward Brandon Davies, worked out for the Utah Jazz.
Davies, who played four years for the Cougars and averaged 12.4 points and 6.2 rebounds in his career, was the most familiar of the dozen players who worked out in two separate sessions. But a bunch of players who competed against BYU in the West Coast Conference, against Utah in the Pac-12, or against both the Cougars and Utes in the Mountain West Conference back in the day, were among the 12 players who worked out for Jazz coaches and scouts.
Besides Davies, other players that have played in the state of Utah several times in recent years included Gonzaga forward Kelly Olynyk, Arizona forward Grant Jerrett, San Diego State guard Jamaal Franklin, Oregon’s Arsalan Kazemi, New Mexico forward Tony Snell and BYU killer Matthew Dellavedova of Saint Mary’s.
Also working out were 6-foot-11 Louisville center Gorgui Dieng, Rudy Gobert, a 7-foot-1 center from France, Kwame Vaughn, a guard from Cal State Fullerton, Isaiah Canaan, a guard from Murray State, and Erick Green, a guard from Virginia Tech.
For Davies, it was his eighth workout for an NBA team — with five more scheduled before the NBA draft on June 27. Davies wasn’t considered a top NBA draft prospect until he opened some eyes in April at the Portsmouth Invitational, where he was named the most valuable player.
“Every workout’s been great and it's been a blessing just to be invited to them,’’ Davies said moments after finishing his workout early Saturday afternoon. “It’s been a lot of fun — the hard work paying off. Everyone’s been real positive and real open and honest.’’
Davies was happy to get a look from his home state team after watching the Jazz while growing up in Provo.
“It’s crazy. My phone’s been blowing up, people telling me not to screw this one up and stuff,’’ he said. “It’s a dream come true just to be here and wear the jersey I watched growing up.’’
One of the players working out with Davies was Dellavedova, the 6-4 Australian who broke Cougar fans’ hearts with his half-court game-winner for Saint Mary’s in February after Tyler Haws had hit the apparent game-winner a couple of seconds earlier.
Davies smiled when asked about Dellavedova and said the two have crossed paths before during the pre-draft workouts, including in Minnesota where they were teammates.
“I don’t want to lose my BYU fans, but he’s a good guy — nothing wrong about him,’’ Davies said.
Dellavedova talked about his various games in Provo and Logan the last couple of years, saying, “We’ve had some good wins at BYU and Utah State in the past, always tough games, but good memories.’’
When asked about his memorable shot against the Cougars, he laughed and said, “I saw on Twitter somebody said they might move to Canada if I came here, but I hope they wouldn’t.’’
As for Davies, Dellavedova said, “I’ve gotten to know him. He’s a good guy and it’s good to get to know him as a person rather than seeing him as the enemy. It’s good to meet all the guys; they’re pretty cool. It was fun to be on the same team with him (in Minnesota).’’
Both Davies and Dellavedova are not likely to be drafted in the first round and perhaps not even the second round. Jazz vice president of player personnel Walt Perrin said Davies needs to “learn to play away from the basket,’’ but “can play in the league” and called him a likely second-round pick.
A player who might be available for Utah’s first first-round pick at No. 14 is Gonzaga’s 7-foot center Olynyk, who not only played against BYU several times, but played his final college game at EnergySolutions Arena, where the Bulldogs were upset by Wichita State in the NCAA tournament.
“I’m not the most athletic guy in the draft, but skill and versatility is something I’d try to bring to the table every day,’’ Olynyk said. “I definitely think they have some great talent here already, great young guys and they’re going to be great moving forward, so I’d love to be a part of that.’’
SUNDAY SESSION: Sundays pre-draft workout will include ex-Ute guard Will Clyburn (Iowa State), Tennessee State F Robert Covington, VCU G Troy Daniels, Kansas State G Rodney McGruder, Oregon F E.J. Singler and Memphis G/F Adonis Thomas.
The Utah Jazz have, in their history, drafted one player from Gonzaga University. And wouldn’t you know, Kelly Olynyk is on a first-name basis with him.
"That Gonzaga tie is huge," Olynyk said after working out for the Jazz on Saturday, "with John being here."
John is, of course, Stockton, the NBA’s all-time leader in assists and a guy who in Olynyk’s four years at Gonzaga has had the potential lottery pick’s ear.
"You’ve got to pick his brain whenever you get the chance," Olynyk said, "because five minutes with him is like 10 years with a lot of other people, in terms of basketball knowledge."
Olynyk headlined a workout that featured 12 players, including at least three post players who are projected to be drafted in the first round. The fact that the Jazz already have two promising young big men, Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors, under contract, did not keep them from bringing in some top prospects.
In addition to Olynyk, the Jazz worked out 7-foot-1 French center Rudy Gobert and Louisville center Gorgui Dieng, who are both projected to go in the middle of the first round.
Brandon Davies, the former BYU forward whose draft stock has been on the rise since winning Most Valuable Player at the Portsmouth Invitational this spring, also participated in the workout.
"You’ve got to have more than two big guys," said Jazz vice president of player personnel Walt Perrin. "So you look at who’s good and you always want to take the best player."
The other advantage to selecting more big men, Perrin said, would be "now you’ve got the flexibility to move somebody to get something you may need."
The Jazz have two first-rounds picks — No. 14 and 21 overall — in the draft and are widely expected to use one of them on a point guard.
Also participating in the workout were guards Isaiah Canaan (Murray State), Jamaal Franklin (San Diego State), Erick Green (Virginia Tech), Tony Snell (New Mexico), Kwame Vaughn (Cal State-Fullerton), Matthew Dellavedova (Saint Mary’s), and Oregon forward Arsalan Kazemi.
SALT LAKE CITY — Unlike the day before when there were a dozen players, including BYU’s Brandon Davies, and twice as many media folks on hand for interviews, Sunday’s Utah Jazz pre-draft workout at Zions Bank Basketball Center was much more low key.
For a change, the number of players outnumbered the media crowd as six mostly nondescript players worked out for Jazz coaches and scouts.
The best-known of the half dozen was former University of Utah player Will Clyburn, who transferred to Iowa State, where he enjoyed a strong season in his only year in Ames, Iowa, this past winter.
The 6-foot-7 Clyburn also only played in Salt Lake City for one season. Though he had good memories of that year with the Utes, he had forgotten about the altitude — until Sunday.
“I’m glad to be back here,’’ he said. "This altitude is hard on us. I used to be used to it, but now I’m not at all.’’
Clyburn calls himself a “long, athletic, versatile wing player that can score in a bunch of different ways’’ and says his game is similar to Utah Jazz player Gordon Hayward. He believes he will be taken “anywhere in the second round” of the upcoming NBA draft.
He said he has no regrets about leaving Utah after coach Jim Boylen was let go in 2011. He felt he needed the extra year off, and he was given an opportunity to expand his game at Iowa State, where he played positions one through four.
“They put the ball in my hands a lot more,’’ he said. “At Utah I was more of a spot-up shooter.’’
Clyburn said he ran into Boylen when he worked out for the Indiana Pacers, where Boylen is an assistant coach. He said Boylen told him he does a lot of things well but advised him to “find something I do great.’’ For Clyburn, Sunday's workout was his 10th, and he still has four more to go.
Another familiar face at Sunday’s workout was Oregon guard E.J. Singler, who played against Utah the past two years in the Pac-12. His older brother, Kyle, plays for the Detroit Pistons after being drafted out of Duke in 2011.
Singler said one player he emulates is former Jazz guard Jeff Hornacek, whose retired number hung above him as he talked to the media. He called himself “a big character guy” who is “a winner” and said he patterns his game after Hornacek, who recently left the Jazz to become the head coach at Phoenix.
“It was cool I could come here and see his name up in the rafters,’’ Singler said. “I’d like to be a knock-down shooter at the next level. I can see myself doing that.’’
The other players who worked out Sunday were mid-sized players like Clyburn and Singler: Troy Daniels, a 6-4 guard from VCU, Rodney McGruder, a 6-4 guard from Kansas State, Adonis Thomas 6-7, 240-pound swing player from Memphis, and Robert Covington, 6-9 forward from Tennessee State.
The Jazz will have 12 more players work out Monday and several more later in the week, according to Walt Perrin, the Jazz's vice president of player personnel.
Jerry Sloan has been a tactful presence around the Utah Jazz's draft process, and he plans to continue providing subtle insight for the organization without – for now – a formal consultant role, a league source told RealGM. Sloan, 71, maintains close relationships with Jazz management, making his return to the franchise this summer an easy transition even without an official position as consultant to this point.
Playing for Kansas, Jeff Withey averaged 3.9 blocked shots per game and made a reputation for himself as one of the best rim protectors in college basketball.
The Utah Jazz already knew that about him. But that’s not why they brought the 7-footer in for a workout on Wednesday morning.
What the front office wanted to see was how he responded offensively. They wanted to see how deep the range was on his jump shot and how he played facing the basket. The defensive abilities would always be there.
"In that way, today was a unique experience," Withey said. "We did a lot of three-on-three stuff, a lot of shooting. It was different. Of course there’s the altitude factor and people want to see how you deal with that. So there were a lot of different layers to this workout."
Withey is intriguing. He’s a little different than some of the guys the Jazz are looking at for their second first-round pick — 21st overall — which is Withey’s projected range. He’s already 23, one of the oldest and most mature guys in the draft.
Most deem him capable of coming in right away and contributing on the defensive end.
He’s a true center, which would allow the Jazz to play Derrick Favors at his natural power forward spot.
And it’s not like Utah hasn’t had previous success with 7-footers out of Kansas: Greg Ostertag had a long career playing alongside Karl Malone 15 years ago.
"He was impressive," Jazz head scout Walt Perrin said. "He shot the ball a lot better than we anticipated. He showed us a side of his game that we didn’t see while he was in college. We didn’t want him to do much back to the basket stuff. We wanted to see him expand his game."
Tuesday marked Withey’s 12th pre-draft workout, typical for a guy like him with fluctuating projected draft value. With the Jazz he worked out with three other guards: Brandon Paul from Illinois, Ray McCallum Jr. from Detroit and John Allen out of Western Washington. Big men Jackie Carmichael and Christian Watford rounded out the group.
Perrin said it wasn’t intentional, but Withey found himself matched up with other bigs who shoot the ball from the perimeter. Along with the guards, Withey found himself in a workout where playing facing the basket was the norm, not the exception.