Utah Jazz: Lehigh's C.J. McCollum intrigued by possibility of playing for Jazz
Streeter Lecka, Getty Images
SALT LAKE CITY — After his pre-draft workout in Utah on Wednesday, C.J. McCollum lit up while talking about possibly playing for the Jazz.
"This culture," he said, "is perfect for me."
Even though the NBA draft is two weeks away and the 2013-14 season isn't for another 4 1/2 months, the projected lottery pick can't wait to play alongside some of the world's best players on a nightly basis.
"I had solid players (at Lehigh)," he said. "But I also had some doctors, lawyers and guys that are going to be working on Wall Street."
Though he missed the last half of the 2012-13 season because of a now-healed broken left foot, it seems unlikely that McCollum would end up working at EnergySolutions Arena on a full-time basis.
Most mock drafts have tabbed the 6-foot-3 combo guard as a top 10 selection, which would require the Jazz to make a trade to move up from their No. 14 and 21 first-round spots.
The two-time Patriot League Player of the Year believes he's ready to step in and play — similar to the guy he's compared to on occasion, ex-Weber State guard Damian Lillard.
"I think I bring a decent amount of intangibles," McCollum said, mentioning his maturity, playmaking skills, shooting, deceptive lateral quickness and "heady" mentality. "I'd say I'm one of the players that's ready to play right now — tomorrow."
Like most players who come to Utah, McCollum knows the Jazz have openings in the backcourt. Because the organization doesn't have a point guard under contract, he's intrigued by the opportunity of early NBA minutes.
Though some critics have questioned whether he's better suited to be a shooting guard instead of a point guard, he is confident in his playmaking abilities.
"Everybody has weaknesses in their game, but I feel like my game is very well-rounded. I'm a chameleon," said McCollum, who averaged 21.7 points, 6.1 rebounds and 2.7 assists in his four-year career at Lehigh. "I can come in and contribute in a multitude of ways and I feel like it will show when I step onto the court."
Walt Perrin, the Jazz's vice president of player personnel, said the organization is still trying to "make that determination" about McCollum being a full-time point guard. Utah's decision-makers, he added, still have a lot of tape to watch and further evaluating to do before making a draft game plan.
But Perrin credited the 21-year-old for his shooting and ball-handling skills — and for the way he adjusted to the Wasatch Front's altitude during Wednesday's workout.
"He struggled, but he fought," Perrin said. "He started shooting the ball a little bit better later in the workout. That's what we like to see."
McCollum, who scored 30 points in Lehigh's NCAA tournament upset win over No. 2-seeded Duke in 2012, hopes to follow the path Lillard, the reigning Rookie of the Year, took from small school to NBA success story.
"I see a lot of different similarities. We're both very poised,' he said. "We both have an ability to knock down shots in a hurry. We're both ready for the big stage."
McCollum also compared himself to Warrior sharpshooter Stephen Curry because of his success at Davidson and their playing styles.
"I'd say he shoots better than me and I'm more athletic," McCollum said.
SCOUTING REPORT: McCollum has been amazed at the amount of homework teams like the Jazz have done on him during this pre-draft process. He's also worked out for Orlando, Philadelphia, Portland, Phoenix and Sacramento.
"You're surprised by how much they know about you. They know everything," he said. "They know if you have a girlfriend. They know what color your dog is and everything."
For the record, he laughed while divulging that he does have a girlfriend but isn't a dog owner.
SPARRING PARTNER: Another Weber State player, Scott Bamforth, also worked out for the Jazz, giving McCollum someone to go against in one-on-one drills in the two-man session.
"I've been preparing for a while for somebody to give me that chance," Bamforth, a 6-2 guard, said Wednesday. "I see myself at the highest level. I'm a hard worker. I'm a team guy. I'll do whatever I need to do to make it for them."
Bamforth averaged 13.6 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.5 assists during his three-year Wildcat career, which included two seasons alongside Lillard.
"They have similar games," Bamforth said of McCollum and his ex-teammates. "I think Dame handles the ball a little bit more."
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