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Utah Jazz rookies looking to work on games during offseason

Published: Thursday, April 14 2011 11:04 p.m. MDT

Utah's Gordon Hayward drives to the basket as he is guarded by Denver's Melvin Ely as the Utah Jazz host the Denver Nuggets at the Energy Solutions Arena in Salt Lake City on  Wednesday, April 13, 2011.  (Mike Terry, Deseret News) Utah's Gordon Hayward drives to the basket as he is guarded by Denver's Melvin Ely as the Utah Jazz host the Denver Nuggets at the Energy Solutions Arena in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, April 13, 2011. (Mike Terry, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — Gordon Hayward's name was at the very bottom of the list on the wall for the Jazz players' year-end meeting with coach Ty Corbin and general manager Kevin O'Connor.

That just gave the assembled media all the more time to interview the star of Utah's final game of the season the night before, who may just be the Jazz's possible star of the future.

Hayward, the No. 9 overall pick in the 2010 draft, was one of three rookies on this year's team, who all hope to be part of an improved Jazz team next year.

Jeremy Evans was the team's second-round draft choice who worked out and hung out with Hayward all season, while Derrick Favors joined the team from New Jersey in February after being part of a trade for Deron Williams.

Gordon Hayward (Laura Seitz, Deseret News) Gordon Hayward (Laura Seitz, Deseret News)

"It was a roller-coaster season," Hayward said. "We started off really well, playing good basketball and for whatever reason went downhill. It was a learning experience, though, and hopefully we'll improve on it next year."

Hayward said he "hates losing" and said the team's disappointing second half will motivate him to be even better last year.

"I plan on going back and working out where I worked out before at St. Vincent's, which is 20 minutes from my house," he said. "I'll just try to get in the gym and be the best player I can be."

When asked what he needs to work on most, Hayward said, "Everything needs to get better. Having a mindset of being aggressive and assertive when I get on the court is something I definitely need to work on. I need to hit the weights, improve ball-handling, shooting, everything."

Favors, who at 19 years old was the youngest player in the NBA this year after spending one year at Georgia Tech, said he feels settled after being subject to trade rumors much of the season.

"It's been an up-and-down season for me," he said. "My confidence has grown a lot because I don't have to worry about trade rumors any more. I know I'm going to be on a good team for a long time and I feel comfortable that I can just go out there and play my game."

Favors says he likes "the organization, the coaches, the fans and players" and says he hopes to stay in Utah.

"We've got a young team and I think we're going to be pretty good," he said. "We've got a good group of young guys and a good group of veterans, and we all work hard and we all want to win."

Evans got the least amount of playing time of the rookies, getting into 49 games, and was known for his spectacular dunks, usually off feeds from Earl Watson. He also called his rookie year "a roller-coaster" because of all the changes.

At 6-foot-9, 196 pounds, Evans might be the skinniest player in the NBA. When asked whether it would be easier to improve his outside shot or put on more weight, he said, "I think the shot is more realistic. I've worked really hard on getting the bulk, but I don't think it's going to come, because I've tried everything. It might come with age."

Like Hayward, Evans said he needs to be more aggressive and not be afraid to shoot.

"I need to have the confidence to just take the shot," he said. "That's going to be big for me."

Evans said he'll be in Utah for part of the summer and also go back to Kentucky where he played college basketball.

email: sor@desnews.com

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