Utah Jazz: Fesenko OK with tough love
Reserve center is being pushed to get better
Doug Pensinger, Getty Images
Kyrylo Fesenko admits he's the type of player who occasionally needs outside help to stay motivated.
Consider him a glutton for pushing and punishment.
"For real, I always need somebody ... to yell at me, to push me," the third-year center said. "I'm just that kind of person. And coach is doing good this year with it."
Translation: The Ukrainian big man often gets an earful from Jazz coach Jerry Sloan — and though Fesenko doesn't necessarily love being yelled at, it works.
Sloan isn't the only one doing the harping, apparently. Fesenko said Utah's special assistant coach also gets on his case while trying to help him fine-tune his free-throw shooting.
"I'm working on it," said Fesenko, a career 36-percent free-throw shooter who missed his first five freebies in the preseason before hitting the only other attempt.
"Jeff Hornacek helped me," he added. "He took the Matt Harpring spot in torturing me. It's all good."
Fesenko, who was Harpring's pet project last season, feels the same about Sloan's tough love.
"When the coach is paying attention to you — like he yelled at you or he says good job, like, it doesn't matter," the 22-year-old said. "He keep paying attention. When he'll stop doing that, you're in trouble."
Sloan yelled Fesenko's name especially early Wednesday — 24 seconds into the season-opener, in fact — when Mehmet Okur temporarily left the game with moderate ankle and knee injuries.
Sloan admitted feeling "concerned" for starting center Mehmet Okur, but he remained in coaching mode and thought, "Who's going to replace him?"
Added Sloan: "I feel so bad for anybody to get hurt, but am I going to stand there and cry? My job still remains the same."
Fesenko, who got the playing call over second-year center Kosta Koufos, responded well. He finished with six points, two rebounds and zero fouls in 11 productive minutes during the Jazz's 114-105 loss at Denver.
"Fes came in and I thought he had a few moments where he played pretty well," Sloan said. "That's what somebody has to do if somebody gets hurt."
That won't stop Sloan from getting on his 7-foot-1 youngster. He knows Fesenko has potential and a powerful body even if he's been frustratingly inconsistent and lackadaisical in the past.
But Fesenko is hopeful he is beginning to earn what he calls "coach's trust."
"I hope," Fesenko said earlier, "he gonna give me a chance this season."
Wednesday's incident only shows how fast that can happen.
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