Stuart Johnson, Deseret Morning News
Morris Almond, first-round draft pick of the Utah Jazz, is averaging nearly 30 points for the D-League's Utah Flash.

OREM — Morris Almond could have sulked when the Utah Jazz sent him down to the Utah Flash — their D-League affiliate — in early December.

If Almond was upset about being sent away from the Jazz, his displeasure is being used to fuel his outstanding performance. He's averaging 29.9 points per game, including a 51-point outburst — tying a D-League single-game record.

Truth be told, Almond isn't upset and is using his time with the Flash to improve his game.

"It's a transition year, there was no D-League in college," Almond said. "I have to take advantage of the opportunity."

"It's a good opportunity to stay in shape and work on the nuances of the game," Almond added.

According to both Almond's college coach, Rice's Willis Wilson, and Flash coach Brad Jones, his attitude is not surprising given his character.

"He's a very unusual guy in this day and age," Wilson said, "in terms of his willingness to work and knowing he is not yet a finished product."

Jones said that the Jazz had a couple things in mind when sending Almond down, including seeing what his attitude is like when dealing with what could be an adverse situation by some.

"The first thing is they want to see how he reacts to not being on their team," Jones said. "And coming down and having the right attitude on his game.

"I know he's been great at that because he has been working at different things. His attitude has been perfect."

Besides attitude, the Jazz also want Almond to get adjusted to an NBA-type style using actual game time.

"As far as the basketball point of it goes, they want him to focus on taking his game to another speed," Jones said. "One of the big transitions from college to pro is the speed of the game.

"He's a great college player, but the speed of the game is faster. And he has to get to where he does well at that speed. Whether that's defensively, running the floor or getting over ball screens and picks."

Cognizant of his own shortcomings, Almond isn't shy about what he needs to do with his time with the Flash.

"They want me to keep my intensity high on both sides of the ball," Almond said. "Working on my positioning defensive-wise is a big part of it. Because you can't work on defense and things like that when you're not playing."

Almost anyone who has seen Almond play can say that his offensive game is great. But Wilson said he told Almond that defense is more important to stay in the game.

"I told him that your offense get you on the court and your defense will keep you there," Wilson said.

Not starting until his junior year, Wilson saw Almond's game step up to put him in that role.

"He changed during college with improved defense and rebounding," Wilson said.

Almond's offensive game is still not perfect. Jones said that he's working on little skills that a scorer needs to do to succeed at the pro level.

"The other thing they wanted him to work on, which he has done terrifically, is ball handling," Jones said, "and getting to the basket and creating opportunities."

"He's a scorer and not just a shooter," Jones added. "He really has the ability to post. He can go off the dribble and make that little floater. And he can spot up and make shots."

Wilson concurs with Jones on seeing how Almond has different methods to score points instead of relying solely on layups or jumpers.

"I've always believed in Morris' ability to score," Wilson said. "He does it in a variety of ways. What's impressive is his efficiency."

For Almond, the chance for NBA clubs to send first- and second-year players down to the D-League is better than riding the bench.

"It's beneficial," Almond said. "I would have done a lot of sitting and watching without it."