Jason Olson, Deseret News
Serge Ibaka's parents both were national-team players in his homeland, the Republic of Congo.
According to an NBA media guide, he "has 17 siblings, lived with his grandmother during civil unrest in the Congo in the mid-to-late '90s in a house with no electricity or running water (and) learned the game playing on outdoor courts wearing shoes with cardboard inserts to cover the holes in his shoes."
But none of that stopped the 18-year-old from turning himself into a potential first-round selection in Thursday's NBA Draft, which is why he was in Utah to audition for the Jazz on Sunday along with Georgetown center Roy Hibbert, French center Alexis Ajinca, Oklahoma center Longar Longar and point guards Sean Singletary of Virginia and Kyle Weaver of Washington State.
"I work very hard, and I kept my confidence, even when things were going bad ... and knew that eventually something would happen, and that's why I'm here for the draft," Ibaka said according to Jazz international scout Alberto Dal Cin, who interpreted as the young African switched in mid-interview from speaking Spanish to French.
Ibaka who knew nothing of the Jazz growing up in Congo is listed as a 6-foot-10, 220-pound power forward/center, though at first glance he appears to fall a bit shy of that height.
He played for a second-level league team in Spain last season, C.B. L'Hospitalet, and said whether he comes to America right away or continues to play in Europe will be up to whatever NBA team drafts him.
But Ajinca, a legit 7-footer who plays for Hyeres-Toulon of the French pro league, seems anxious to make the move right away.
"I think it's better for me to come here and be in the NBA," he said.
Both are possible picks for Utah at No. 23 overall in this week's draft, but Jazz general manager Kevin O'Connor said the franchise isn't specifically seeking to draft an international player and stash him for a season or two overseas.
He also suggested young foreign players like Ibaka and the 20-year-old Ajinca are probably not prepared for an immediate jump to the NBA.
"I don't think any of them are ready," he said, "and if they are ready they'd be in the top five of the draft if they're that size."
MILES DECISION: O'Connor said the Jazz won't decide if they'll tender reserve swingman C.J. Miles a qualifying offer and make him a restricted free agent before the NBA's end-of-the-month deadline for doing so.
If they do, the Jazz would retain the right to either re-sign Miles or match any offer he receives when the league's summer signing period opens in July.
Much may depend on whom Utah lands in the draft's opening round, and whether or not it's a another perimeter player.
But if the Jazz do make Miles a qualifying offer, O'Connor suggested, they also will want him to play in next month's Rocky Mountain Revue summer league.
Miles and his agent opted against the Jazz's desire for him to play in the Revue as a restricted free agent last summer, for fear of injury, and the two sides were at odds over the decision after Miles had a disappointing training camp and preseason.
NO PARTY? The Jazz currently have no plans to hold their usual draft-night party at EnergySolutions Arena, and instead intend to make picks in a private setting at their practice-facility offices.HE SAID IT: Hibbert, in working out in front of coach Jerry Sloan and the Jazz staff: "Those guys are stone-cold over there. I can't even get a read on those guys. No smiles over there at all. They're all about business."
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