Utah Jazz: Second-round pick Jeremy Evans stands out with athleticism and hoops IQ
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — Before Saturday's scrimmage, the Utah Jazz's furry mascot watched pregame festivities with his lowest paws and claws perched atop the hoop, 10 feet off the court.
Judging the intrasquad game, Bear won't be the only Jazz guy who spends time above the rim and off the hardwood this season.
Rookie Jeremy Evans, a 6-9 bundle of energy from Western Kentucky, opened eyes with an impressive debut for Jazz fans who might've been unaware that the team's second-round pick had pogo sticks for legs.
"He's a freaky athlete," Jazz guard Raja Bell said. "That's gifted athleticism right there."
And there. Oh, now he's over there. Just like that, he's way up there.
"We are all excited about his ability, just (to) get up so quick and so easy," marveled another highly touted athlete on the team, Jazz forward Andrei Kirilenko. "We just like jealous a little bit, like, 'Ah, I want to be like him right now.' "
During the scrimmage, Evans used his coveted skills in putback and dunking situations. Somewhere in EnergySolutions Arena, general manager Kevin O'Connor had to be smiling about the 2010 No. 55 overall pick, who could turn out to be his latest second-round steal.
Evans' athleticism isn't the only thing making the team excited about his future. He's also grasping an offensive system that has many moving parts.
"He's a pretty intelligent basketball player, not just (with) athletic ability," Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said. "His intelligence of seeing and knowing what's going on is not by accident.
"A lot of people have got the athletic ability," Sloan added, "but they can't do anything with it. He seems to do quite a bit."
Kirilenko went so far to say the soon-to-be 23-year-old small forward has the tools, the quicks, hops and height, to become the "perfect 3."
One big potential problem is that Evans makes the beefier-but-still-thin Kirilenko look like a bodybuilder. They're both the same height, but the Arkansas native weighs about 40 pounds less than AK-47 at 196 pounds.
Evans could be frighteningly freaky for the Jazz if he solidifies his frame, allowing him to bang with and hold his position better against larger NBA players.
"He's still young. He needs to work out," Kirilenko advised. "With his abilities, if he kind of finds that way to get under the basket, kind of avoid the defender, he's going to be unstoppable."
Evans was never a big scorer, averaging an even 10.0 ppg as a senior, but held his own with his size in college. He finished as WKU's all-time leader in blocks (224) and field-goal percentage (.639), even helped the Hilltoppers topple Deron Williams' old school, Illinois, in the NCAA Tournament as a junior in 2009.
And consider this about Evans' versatility: He averaged 6.9 rebounds. He also averaged 0.69 assists.
This past summer, Evans put up 5.5 points and 3.0 rebounds in 16.6 minutes for the Jazz's summer-league squad. More important that stats, Evans believes that Orlando Pro League experience gave him a head start heading into fall camp. He was able to familiarize himself with the plays.
Now Evans, who's on a nonguaranteed contract, is soaking in everything he can in the hopes of winning a permanent roster spot.
Like Sloan, Evans believes his athleticism overshadows his hoops aptitude.
"A lot of guys just go out and try to play hard, but they're not in position or not helping," he said. "Where I try to get in those positions and help, I think I know (the system) well, just from how much time I've been here, and I'm ready to keep pushing and go forward."
Pardon the Jazz while they imagine what could be by putting his mass in motion with more muscle.
- Tournament central: 5A boys quarterfinals...
- High school boys basketball: Lone Peak...
- BYU football: Practice fights elicit smiles...
- BYU basketball: Bottom seed LMU knocks off...
- Catching up: Old friends Andre Miller, Alex...
- High school boys basketball: Davis survives...
- High school boys basketball: American Fork...
- CougarLinks: Daniel Sorensen deemed a winner...
- Utah basketball: Utes clip Cal in... 83
- BYU football: Practice fights elicit... 55
- High school boys basketball: 5A/4A/1A... 54
- UteLinks: A look at Utah's RPI breakdown 52
- BYU baseball: BYU beats Utah, 20-3 46
- Doug Robinson: Time to move on for... 42
- CougarLinks: BYU picked to win WCC... 28
- Former BYU quarterback John Beck signs... 22