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Michael Brandy, Deseret News
Marreese Speights of Florida shoots around after a predraft workout for the Jazz at the Zions Bank Basketball Center, the Jazz practice facility, on Sunday.

Marreese Speights was a bit surprised upon arrival in Salt Lake City.

"Oh, when I came here (Saturday), I expected way different than this," he said. "This is kind of like, city. I expected, like, cows and stuff."

Then Speights looked up and was in for another shock.

"I seen that snow on top of the mountains," the 20-year-old Floridian said. "That was crazy."

For as much as the 6-foot-10 Speights was schooled about Utah and the wild west over the weekend, though, the Jazz may have learned even more when he worked out Sunday morning along with fellow big men Jason Thompson of Rider and the University of Indiana's D.J. White in advance of the upcoming NBA Draft.

Like why he attended three different schools, including two military prep academies, before going to the University of Florida.

(To get his grades, core courses and SAT score in order.)

Like what positions he can play on the NBA level.

(Power forward and center.)

And like why Speights feels NBA-ready after just two years at Florida, including one national-championship freshman season buried on the bench behind 2007 NBA draft choices Al Horford, Joakim Noah and Chris Richard.

(Because he's ready for another challenge and seems assured of going in the first round.)

Some Internet mock drafts suggest Speights indeed is bound for Utah.

But, reality suggests, he very well could be off the board by the time the Jazz pick at No. 23 overall in the June 26 draft.

"I hope to be gone," said Speights, a St. Petersburg, Fla., native who averaged 14.5 points and 8.1 rebounds as a sophomore for the Gators this past season. "But, if I'm not, this would be a good team to come to."

The 6-11 Thompson could be there, though, which is why he was quite anxious to prove his worth to Jazz brass.

"When I come in here in the beginning," the 21-year-old power forward from New Jersey said, "I just want to come in here and do whatever it takes for coach (Jerry) Sloan — and see what happens from there."

After four years at Jersey-based Rider, including a senior season in which he averaged 20.4 points and 12.1 rebounds per game at the low-profile Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference school, Thompson seems to sense he still needs to make a name for himself.

"I know coming in here (from) a mid-major that I have to prove myself every day," he said, "but that helps me and that just motivates me even more."

The names Thompson relates to most in the NBA, however, need no introduction whatsoever.

"I try to compare my game to KG (Kevin Garnett) a little bit," he said. "I love his energy, offensively and defensively. You know — if he gets a dunk, he's screaming. Also a little of Rasheed Wallace, with his inside-out game. But definitely not the attitude part."

As for Speights' attitude about the prospect of playing in Salt Lake City, it really doesn't seem to be nearly as bad as his good-natured cowtown humor suggests.

In fact, he seemed quite impressed with Utah while watching NBA postseason play over the last couple years.

"I love seeing 'em on TV," Speights said of the Jazz. "The fans are crazy. They're so loud, and they love the team out here."

NOTES: Speights and Thompson both were part of a 24-man workout in Oakland on Saturday that was attended by representatives from 10 NBA teams, including Jazz general manager Kevin O'Connor. ... Cal forward Ryan Anderson, who also auditioned at the Golden State-hosted workout, canceled his planned visit to Utah on Sunday so he could spend time with family while deciding before today's withdrawal deadline whether to remain draft eligible or return for his junior season. ... Point guards Johnnie Bryant of the University of Utah and Ronald Steele of Alabama also worked out for the Jazz on Sunday. Steele is a projected second-rounder, and Bryant is hoping for an invitation to summer-league camp. ... Georgetown center Roy Hibbert reportedly worked out last Friday in Charlotte. The Jazz seem to be quite high on the 7-2 senior, and hope to bring him back for a second workout sometime before the draft.

Contributing: Linda Hamilton


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