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Jazz rookie Dante Exum shows glimpses of excellence, rawness

Published: Thursday, July 17 2014 10:45 p.m. MDT

Updated: Thursday, July 17 2014 11:23 p.m. MDT

Rana rattled off a variety of ways Exum has improved since then: decision-making, strength, size, shooting (even if, he added, that hasn’t been evident this week while the Aussie’s shot 32 percent from the field).

“All areas of his game continue to evolve,” Rana said. “… He continues to improve, continues to grow as a player and grow as a young man. It’s really, really exciting to be able to be part of his initial touches in the NBA.”

Exum and countryman/teammate Brock Motum will leave for Australia on Sunday to begin training with the national team for the upcoming 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup in Spain.

“It won’t conflict with the things we’re doing,” Snyder said. “It’s a great opportunity for him to compete and do the things … with that team (that) will help us.”

Motum, a 6-10 big man who played at Washington State and has fared well with the Jazz this summer, is thoroughly enjoying being on a team with a player who’s a star in their country.

“It’s good having an Aussie out there to play with. He’s a tremendous talent,” Motum said after scoring 14 points with eight rebounds in Thursday’s loss. “(Exum) has unlimited upside. I think right now he’s a little young and he’s just gathering experience, but I think he’s going to be a great player for a long time.”

Adam Taylor, a writer for the Geelong Advertiser in Victoria, said Aussie eyes are on Exum because of how recently he played in his home country. Other Australian players — from Andrew Bogut (Utah) to Spurs guard Patty Mills (St. Mary’s) — played college ball in the U.S. before embarking on their successful NBA careers, making Exum's story all the more unique.

“They go to America, do their four years of college and then they get forgotten about back home, whereas Dante’s fresh,” said Taylor, who was in Las Vegas for Summer League and as a basketball coach for a different tournament. “I saw him play only six months ago in a high school game (in Australia) and now here he is. Here I am in Vegas watching him here with the big boys. It’s a different world.”

Taylor believes many Australians will turn into big Jazz fans. He wouldn’t be surprised if the Utah club is followed more closely by Aussies than any other team in the NBA aside from the champion Spurs, who have Mills and Aron Baynes. Taylor even admitted he'll likely start rooting for the Jazz even above his beloved Knicks.

“It’s massive. It’s really big. He’s come through the junior program in Australia, so all those kids who drive hundreds of kilometers to play every Friday night, they’re looking (at) him. Their eyes are opened,” Taylor said. “You just have to look at Facebook and all the social media back home and he’s everywhere. … Everybody loves him. Everyone wishes him the best.”

Exum is becoming better known by the day in the U.S. He had plenty of pre-draft publicity for working out in Southern California and occasionally hanging out at Lakers games. He stars in a series of humorous Foot Locker commercials. And while in Las Vegas, the Jazz player was in high demand for interviews with local, national and international media. He was on the Jim Rome Show on Thursday and has done TV segments with NBA Inside Stuff, NBA Entertainment, ESPN’s TrueHoop and ESPN Australia, among others.

All that while he’s been practicing and playing with the Jazz in his inaugural NBA experience.

“For anybody, let alone if you’re (19), to deal with a lot of that stuff is a lot in addition to playing, but I think he’s done well,” Snyder said. “He looks fatigued to me right now, but I think that’s natural.”

“It’s been tough, and this is just a taste of what the real thing is,” Exum admitted. “I look forward to learning from this experience and hope to come out better.”

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