Mike Terry, Deseret News
He's got the height.
At 7-foot-2, there's no question about that.
But can he play in the NBA?
Luke Nevill thinks he can, and — equipped with something of a secret weapon — he's spent the past month or so trying to prove just that to teams around the league.
Sunday morning was the Jazz's turn to sneak a peek, and Nevill — a senior center from the University of Utah — used the opportunity to unleash the tool he's been honing for some time now.
The big Aussie, it seems, has a jump shot.
Nevill, 23, suggests he did all along — and that, after a five-year college career in which he relied mostly on a little left-hand hook, he's just has been waiting for the chance to pull it from his bag.
"I wasn't able to do that much in college," he said of utilizing the jumper, "but I've really kind of worked on that.
"In practice, I used to shoot the ball all the time. But come game time, I had a job to do, and (Utes) Coach (Jim) Boylen said, 'Stay in the post; that's the best way you're gonna help us.' So that's what I did," Nevill added. "(But) I always knew I could shoot it, and he knew I could shoot it, so it's just (about) getting an opportunity to shoot it now. That's a good thing."
A much-noticed thing, apparently, too.
"A lot of teams are surprised at my range," Nevill said after completing his 10th and final workout in advance of Thursday night's NBA Draft.
The whirlwind tour has taken him to locales such as Minnesota and New Jersey for massive group auditions attended by scouts and general managers representing multiple franchises, not to mention visits with individual teams, including Indiana and Houston.
"They didn't know I could shoot the ball as well as I can," he said, "because they haven't really seen me do that."
Jazz player personnel vice president Walt Perrin, for one, attests to Nevill's assertion about his shot.
"You don't see many 7-2 guys, and he shoots the ball pretty well for his size," Perrin said of the prospect who is widely considered a second-round hopeful Thursday. "I mean, he's very good offensively. And he can block shots."
Still, Nevill — who averaged between 15 and 17 points per game during his final three seasons in school, and who left the Utes as their all-time career leader in totals shots blocked — has a ways to go before he can hush naysayers such as ESPN.com draft specialist Chad Ford, who suggest most of his pro career may be spent in Europe or even his native Australia.
"I think he's got to get stronger, first of all," Perrin said. "And I'm talking about total body strength — I mean his legs, and his upper body. I think he's got to increase his stamina, because it's going to be more of an up-and-down game, probably, at our level than it was at the U."
Improved, speedier footwork wouldn't hurt either — and that's by Nevill's own admission.
"He's got NBA skills," Perrin said when asked if the 265-pounder is an 'NBA player.'
"I mean, it's up to him, up to what team he gets to, if he makes the team. I think he's a guy whose playing ability is probably more in a couple years than, say, next year — because he still has some growth."
Yet Nevill's also had the edge in several of his head-to-head workouts with other bigs before the draft, including one session at Minnesota where he supposedly owned 7-1 Ohio State center and potential mid-first round pick B.J. Mullens.
"The great thing for Luke this year: There's not a lot of big guys in this draft," Perrin said, "and he's gone against B.J. Mullens a few times, he's gone against Josh Heytvelt (a 6-11 Gonzaga product who worked out against Nevill for the Jazz on Sunday) quite a bit, so he's been seen by a lot of teams.
"With the increased strength, increased ability to get up and down the court, and increased (improvement) in his game — yeah," the Jazz scout added, "he could play with somebody."
If Nevill has his druthers, then, he won't be headed back overseas — let alone hometown Perth — anytime soon.
"Definitely NBA," he said. "That's my goal."
If the club that drafts him suggests he get his start in Europe, as is sometimes the case with second-round picks, he'd certainly consider the option.
"But right now," Nevill said, "I'm kind of banking on the fact that I'm gonna stay here and try to help the team out."
He figures, it seems, that he's got a decent shot.
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