SALT LAKE CITY — He can't help them next season, for contractual reasons.
But after playing with center Ante Tomic this past season in Spain, Utah Valley State product and former BYU star Travis Hansen — recovering himself from recent back surgery — has no doubt that the Jazz's 2008 second-round draft choice can play in the NBA.
"Ante Tomic is nice," Hansen, with extra emphasis on 'nice', said during an appearance Sunday night on KSL-TV Ch. 5's "SportsBeat" show. "I really like him, man.
"He's 7-(foot)-1, 7-2. He's a little bit skinny, but he's a lot like (Los Angeles Lakers All-Star) Pau Gasol. He can move. He's got great lateral quickness. He's got a great touch. He can shoot the 15-footer — you know, right, left, back-to-the-basket. He's phenomenal."
Tomic, now 23 years old, was selected 44th overall by the Jazz in '08.
He played for Zagreb in his native Croatia from 2004-09, and earned Adriatic League MVP honors in 2009.
Expected to represent Croatia later this summer at the FIBA World Championships in Turkey, Tomic joined Real Madrid last January.
He signed a 3 1/2-year deal with the traditional Spanish League/Euroleague power, but because he has no immediate NBA out clause in his contract Tomic couldn't join the Jazz until the 2011-12 season at the earliest.
So Utah — in desperate need of size and length that it hopes to find when the NBA's summer free-agency shopping market opens later this week, especially if starting power forward Carlos Boozer signs with another team and starting center Mehmet Okur struggles to bounce back from recent surgery to repair a torn Achilles tendon — must be patient.
But the wait will be well worth it, suggested Hansen, a Mountain View High product who played 41 NBA games for the Atlanta Hawks during the 2003-04 season and since has spent his career in Spain and Russia.
"Yes, he can help them," Hansen told KSL's Tom Kirkland. "I mean, he's got to gain a little bit of weight. And it's tough in Europe, because they're not big on lifting weights; they're huge on being quick.
"But give him one, maybe two more years there (in Madrid), and they (the Jazz) are gonna have to pay him some money to come over here. I mean, he's a player."
It remains to be seen how Tomic's situation will impact the length of contract the Jazz offer to backup center Kyrylo Fesenko, a restricted free agent who on Monday received his qualifying offer for next season.
Hansen, meanwhile, was injured late last season and is recovering from surgery to repair L4-L5 (lower-back) disc damage.
He remains under contract with Real Madrid for one more season, but hopes to perhaps play elsewhere in the coming season, specifically mentioning Athens, Greece, during his SportsBeat appearance.
Traditional Greek League/Euroleague power Olympiakos plays out of Piraeus in the greater Athens area and could be in need of another perimeter player, especially if former Atlanta Hawks small forward Josh Childress returns to the NBA as a restricted free agent.
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