Utah Jazz: D-League guard Jerel McNeal excited for 10-day test drive with Jazz
Jody Genessy, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Jazz are taking another player for a test drive.
Point guard Jerel McNeal was signed to a 10-day contract Wednesday morning by the Jazz.
This is the second NBA stint for McNeal, who had been playing for the Bakersfield Jam in the D-League.
"For me, it's just really exciting and just humbling to be able to come from where I just came from," McNeal said. "And today, this morning, be in an NBA locker room, it means a lot to me."
McNeal is a 6-foot-3, 200-pounder who played with former Jazz shooting guard Wesley Matthews at Marquette from 2005-09. The 25-year-old is the Golden Eagles' all-time leading scorer.
Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said this trial period gives the team a chance for an up-close-and-personal evaluation of an intriguing future prospect. The team brought D-League guard Travis Leslie up for a week-and-a-half tryout earlier this month.
Even if the players don't get on the court — Leslie only dressed once but didn't play — the organization believes it's worthwhile.
"You get a chance to see him, to see his body, to see him around this group of guys, see how he works," Corbin said, adding that the players give the team the "luxury" of an extra body at practices. "(It helps us) just know who the guy is firsthand and (see) if he fits with what we're doing. If you have a need for a guy, you get a chance to look at him earlier than later."
McNeal has been in town since Monday but was officially signed in time to participate in Wednesday's shootaround. He was available but didn't dress against the Suns.
"I was just excited about it," McNeal said. "I was ready to get the paperwork and everything done so I can get things rolling and get to the fun part, which is tonight and this morning, the basketball aspect of things."
Matthews, who played for Utah in 2009-10 after making the team as an undrafted free agent, publicly congratulated McNeal on Twitter after receiving a phone call from the new Jazzman. The former teammates — McNeal was Marquette's 2008-09 MVP, by the way — will get a chance to see each other Friday when Utah visits Portland.
"Just the type of guy (Matthews) is, he's super excited for me and just happy I'm getting an opportunity to just to get to showcase my skills and get another shot at this level," McNeal said. "I think it means a lot to him and obviously it means a whole lot to me, too."
McNeal went undrafted in 2009, but had a 10-day contract with New Orleans in March 2011. He has participated in three NBA training camps, with Toronto (2012), Houston (2010) and the Los Angeles Clippers (2009).
McNeal, a Chicago native who'll wear No. 23, averaged 18.1 points, 5.5 assists and 3.0 rebounds in 44 games with the Jam this season. He is a two-time D-League All-Star.
Corbin described him as a "combo guard" who has developed into a good point guard in the D-League.
"He can really score the ball," the coach said.
"I'm trying to make the most out of the opportunity, whether that be helping out in practice or if I'm fortunate enough to get any playing time in the game," McNeal said. "Whatever it may be, I just want to do whatever I can to show the organization and the coaching staff that not only am I great guy off the court but I'm able to contribute something on the court too if I'm able to get the opportunity."
Former Jazz D-Leaguers include: Rusty LaRue (2000-01), Mikki Moore (2003-04), Louis Amundson (2006-07), Sundiata Gaines (2009-10), Othyus Jeffers (2009-10), Marcus Cousin (2010-11), Kyle Weaver (2010-11), Blake Ahearn (2011-12) and Leslie (2012-13).
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