Sleepless Fesenko inks Jazz contract

Published: Thursday, Aug. 16 2007 12:27 a.m. MDT

Kyrylo Fesenko said he didn't sleep all night in anticipation of signing his first NBA contract with the Utah Jazz about 9 Wednesday morning.

But when he actually put pen to paper, "I was very cool. I don't worry about nothing. Now I'm finally happy," Fesenko said by phone from the airport just before leaving Salt Lake City to fly home to Ukraine to be with family and friends for a few weeks.

The 7-foot-1 20-year-old center has been in Utah since before the Rocky Mountain Revue camp started in early July, staying here to work out at the Jazz's practice facility, do some running and swimming and learn the city while the Jazz and his agent, Jason Levien of Miami Beach, negotiated with his Ukrainian team and federation and basketball's international federation, FIBA, to bring the second-round draft pick here.

Fesenko plans to return to Salt Lake Sept. 2 to resume getting ready for training camp Oct. 1.

His three-year contract is thought to be somewhat similar to what the Jazz gave second-rounder Paul Millsap last year. It is estimated to be worth about $1.5 million over the first two years, which are guaranteed, with the third (nonguaranteed) year in excess of $800,000.

It's been a long process involving the Jazz, Fesenko and his agent, the NBA and Fesenko's Ukrainian team and FIBA.

The Jazz had to first decide if they wanted to work with him this year or leave him in Ukraine for another year of seasoning.

After they made the decision that they wanted him now — obviously helped by Fesenko's promising Revue showing which Kevin O'Connor, senior vice president of basketball operations, said at the time was "a little bit of a surprise how far along he was" — the Jazz and Levien negotiated to buy out Fesenko's Ukrainian-team contract for $500,000 plus other considerations. That process also involved the NBA.

Since Fesenko signed his contract Wednesday, the Jazz will have the option of keeping Fesenko on their roster or sending him to their NBA Development League team, the Orem Flash, for all or part of the next season.

The contract must now be approved by FIBA and the NBA, a process that could take up to a week, said O'Connor, who seems to expect no difficulties.

Because the contract must still be cleared by FIBA and ultimately the NBA, O'Connor declined to discuss Fesenko Wednesday other than to confirm that he had signed.

Fesenko had no problems talking about realizing what he called his dream ever since he began playing basketball at age 8. "I'm perfect. I'm excited. I'm happy," he said. "Finally I signed the contract, and I am glad that all this work that I and my agent, team do, everything is going well.

"I'm happy to play for the Jazz. I'm just happy," he said. "I hope that I will really help Jazz next season, and I will do all my best to help."

He said he stayed in Utah since the Revue because he felt sure the Jazz would sign him for this season. "Yeah, because they were speaking with my Ukrainian club. There was just deal, some stuff about buyout. So I wasn't worried."

He has spent frugally while in the United States the last 2 1/2 months for predraft workouts with NBA teams and through the draft, Revue and the weeks after, using money he earned from playing professionally for Cherkaski Mavpi in the Ukrainian SuperLeague for three seasons and money that Levien lent him.

Now he is pretty well assured a lucrative NBA salary, pending FIBA/NBA approval, but he's not spending that money in his mind yet like most youngsters would.

Asked what he wants to buy first, Fesenko said, "Nothing. I don't know what thing I'm going to buy. I will rent apartment. Maybe buy some car. That's all. I don't know. I don't want to spend all my money in six weeks."

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