Utah Jazz: Dante Exum hopes to take the mystery out of his name and game

Published: Friday, June 27 2014 11:15 p.m. MDT

Utah Jazz newcomers Dant Exum and Rodney Hood talk to the media at the Zions Bank Basketball Center in Salt Lake City on Friday, June 27, 2014.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — He didn’t play college basketball. He has limited high-level hoops experience and highlight videos. And, yes mate, he speaks with an Australian accent for a good reason.

It’s not surprising that Dante Exum was dubbed as “The International Man of Mystery” leading up to the NBA draft.

Exum arrived in Utah on Friday afternoon, a half-hour before his introductory press conference and less than 24 hours after being selected fifth overall by the Jazz, eager to begin shedding some light on the subjects he knows best. Himself. And his enigmatic and enthralling basketball game.

“Being a mystery, I’m looking forward to putting that to a rest,” Exum said during a Q&A session with his new teammate, 23rd pick Rodney Hood from Duke.

“People obviously haven’t seen me play a lot,” Exum added, “but when I step on the court at summer league, I’m just going to play hard and show them the Australian type of basketball that we like to play.”

That’s one revelation Jazz fans can take away from Exum’s debut in Utah. Not only does he say things with a charming voice that evokes fond memories of Crocodile Dundee (don’t call him Crocodile Dante, by the way), but this soon-to-be 19-year-old has a knack for saying the right things.

During Friday’s interviews, Exum went through the checklist of things to say to impress his new fans.

Compliment the Salt Lake scenery?

Check.

“We just got here, but the drive over here is beautiful,” he said. “The flight in, you see the mountains. I can’t wait to get to see Salt Lake. … I’m really excited to get a feel for the city.”

Show appreciation for the local NBA team’s cherished history?

Double-check.

“I couldn’t be happier to be drafted by the Utah Jazz,” he said. “They have a rich tradition in the way they play. John Stockton and Karl Malone. Now to be named to be part of that is truly an honor.”

Talk about going to work, becoming a leader, trying to improve and adapt, and living up to the high hopes of an unfamiliar athlete who was considered a top-pick candidate and a potential franchise player?

Check all that, too.

“I’ve got a lot of expectations being from Australia. I would say there’s a lot of pressure. The way you deal with pressure is you get out on the court and you work hard,” Exum said. “I’ve prepared for this moment. I’m going to keep working hard and come to the gym every day.”

While that all sounds good, it certainly remains a mystery as to whether his natural skill and enhanced basketball gifts will translate from Down Under to being under the bright spotlight of the NBA. His sense of humor is not a secret anymore now that Foot Locker is playing a series of funny commercials featuring this up-and-comer whose future could be as bright as his past is enigmatic.

The Jazz happily used the No. 5 pick they acquired after a rough 25-57 season with the belief that eventually Exum will become known for all the right reasons.

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