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Utah Jazz: Fesenko's agent disputes any national-team tantrum

Published: Tuesday, Aug. 25 2009 12:00 a.m. MDT

Recent claims that a disgruntled Kyrylo Fesenko quit the Ukraine national team and had a feud with his federation might have been a little mistranslated between Europe and the U.S.

According to his agent, the media reports were at the very least "a little misreported."

Fesenko's agent, Stu Lash, disputes published allegations that his client left the Ukraine national team in the middle of a tournament earlier this month because the center was disgruntled or had a disagreement with the country's coach.

In fact, Lash insists Fesenko's European experience — which he chose to pursue over being on the Utah Jazz's summer-league team — was still sweet even if shortened for a family obligation.

And the agent believes Fesenko's summer stint was good for the 7-foot-1 center and will be for the Jazz this NBA season as well.

"It was positive," Lash said of the Ukrainian's brief national-team time. "I think one thing it gave him was an opportunity to be back home and play and build his confidence up more than anything. … (It was) all in all a good experience for him."

Some, however, wondered if the opposite was the case from perusing box scores and viewing the situation from the outside — especially considering Fesenko didn't exactly tear it up against mostly non-NBA talent.

Fesenko only ended up getting action in three of his country's six European relegation games. He played 20-plus minutes in the first two games, but his participation quickly diminished. He logged only nine minutes in the third game, didn't get off the bench in the fourth contest and wasn't even with the team for the final outings against Estonia and the Czech Republic.

Asked if Fesenko had a dispute with his national team or if he bolted after being benched, the agent responded: "No, not at all." Rather, Lash claimed the real reason for Fesenko's early exit from Ukraine's team wasn't hastily made in the heat of the moment.

"He had a family thing to attend to and the team was playing some younger players, so it was kind of mutually agreed upon," Lash said. "... And just with his schedule, wanting to get back here and getting ready for the (NBA) season, it was something we had kind of spoken about ahead of time."

Though he missed the summer league and didn't exactly shine with Ukraine — aside from a 13-point, seven-rebound outing against Hungary — Lash believes Jazz brass and fans should be encouraged about Fesenko's future.

The inconsistent-but-intriguing big man will return to Utah later this week to begin preparing for his third season with the Jazz. Lash said his client, whose final year of his rookie contract was picked up by the Jazz in June, believes he can play his way into the rotation and extend his NBA career. That, Lash says, is where Fesenko's focus has been all summer.

"He's very excited. He's made tremendous growth as a player the last year and a half, two years, both on and off the court," Lash said. "I think with how the roster's shaped up, there's an opportunity there."

The Fesenko camp believes he has a skill set that sets him apart from the other "talented players in the frontcourt" — centers Mehmet Okur and second-year post player Kosta Koufos.

"Fes brings something to that team that I think there's a void there — and that's just interior presence on the defensive end and rebounding," Lash said. "He's as big as it gets.

"Now," he added, "he has to go out there and earn their trust and prove that he can handle those kind of minutes in the rotation. And I think that's his goal for the upcoming year."

Getting off to a good start later next month when the Jazz reconvene will be crucial, his agent acknowledges.

"He's got to go into training camp in shape and ready to go from Day 1 to have an impact, and if he does that I think he'll have an opportunity," Lash said. "But it's got to be on him."

As for Fesenko's future with his national team, Lash says his client's status is "unknown."

"It's not something we've even discussed at this point," he said. "The main focus is just being ready for training camp with the Jazz right now more than anything. I think that's 100 percent what's on his mind right now."

e-mail: jody@desnews.com

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