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Utah Jazz: Enes Kanter eager to take next step in NBA career

By Jarrod Rudolph

For the Deseret News

Published: Tuesday, July 10 2012 9:27 p.m. MDT

Enes Kanter

Jarrod Rudolph

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ORLANDO, Fla. — Enes Kanter is a tremendous talent. When his game is on, he has a mix of size, strength, touch and slick post moves.

He's an aggressive rebounder who isn't afraid to mix it up with the league's older, more experienced big men. And he has a skill-set most big men wish they possessed.

But the 20-year-old center is still a work in progress.

While he has plenty of upside, Kanter wasn't completely NBA-ready when the Jazz selected him with the third pick in the 2011 NBA draft. Both Kanter and the organization knew it would be a while before the young center was able to put everything together on a nightly basis.

Kanter, however, is ready to take the next step. He wants to help the Jazz move forward and showcase the skills that netted him Best Player honors at the 2009 European Championships. It's a long road ahead for the big man, and he's starting the trip at the Orlando Summer League this week.

"I'm trying hard to improve my game during this time," Kanter said. "In the Summer League, I have the chance to play more minutes and have more responsibility. I'm trying to play my best."

Kanter values the minutes he's getting on the floor these days.

After all, in 2010-11, Kanter missed an entire year of basketball after being ruled ineligible by the NCAA. He was signed and ready to play for John Calipari at the University of Kentucky. But that NCAA ruling, coupled with the NBA lockout, forced Kanter to miss a year of competitive basketball — something that took time to overcome.

"It was rough, not playing," Kanter said. "First I couldn't play for Kentucky. Then the lockout happened. Then the shortened season happened. But now I'm working to play more minutes and play a lot better."

In the first two days of the Orlando Summer League, Kanter has shown a willingness to work and improve.

Rebounding from a disappointing 1-for-7 outing against the Pistons on Monday, Kanter scored 10 points and grabbed eight rebounds Tuesday, helping the Jazz defeat the Sixers 84-80.

Against the Sixers, Kanter showed an ability to make quick adjustments.

His motivation, according to Utah Jazz Summer League coach Scott Layden, is why Kanter has a chance to be one of the league's better players. He's a "self-starter" says Layden and works to get better every day.

"He's come back improved this summer," said Layden. "He has tremendous talent and he's a hard worker. You can see the progress with him on a day-to-day basis, and it's a compliment to him on his focus and concentration on working.

"He's a self-motivated guy," Layden continued. "And I think how he works with the coaches you can see he's made good progress because of that. Being a self-starter is why he's going to have success. Big guys usually aren't self-starters and he is. That's why he'll have a good career."

Kanter has a number of things he wants to improve on this summer, but he's learned to be patient and is working with his coaches to make sure he's getting the right type of work in — something he learned through his first season.

"I've learned a lot of things about basketball throughout the season," Kanter said. "Little things like not bringing the ball down when I rebound and make quick moves when I have the ball. But I've also learned to communicate with my coaches and teammates, and that helps me."

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