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Ashley Lowery, Deseret News
Georgetown University center Roy Hibbert is high on Utah's list of players the Jazz are considering for selection with the No. 23 pick in next weekend's NBA Draft.

The Jazz select No. 23 overall in the first round of Thursday's NBA Draft, and when they do it's bound to be a big deal.

At least that's what everyone from fans to some media members and agents seem to think.

Perhaps it is because the Jazz's draft preparation has revolved around — or so it appears — all things big.

Maybe it's because their biggest roster need arguably is an intimidating interior-defense presence who can block and/or alter shots.

Or it could be because of the procession of big men who've paraded to Utah for pre-draft workouts — topped by 7-foot-2 Georgetown center Roy Hibbert, who's in town this morning for a second up-close-and-personal look.

Whatever the case, the Jazz seem OK with the notion.

"You know what? We'll let them have that perception," Jazz player personnel vice president Walt Perrin said Saturday,

when the team auditioned six second-round hopefuls, including Utah State shooting guard Jaycee Carroll.

Yet there's no escaping the reality of the Jazz's interest in Hibbert, a senior who wasn't working out against any other bigs the first time he came here.

Also absent when Hibbert was in Salt Lake City back on June 4 to work in front of general manager Kevin O'Connor were two people who'll have influence on the Jazz's selection — Perrin, and head coach Jerry Sloan.

"We wanted to bring him back to work out in from of Coach," Perrin said, "and we also wanted to bring him back to work out against other players."

Hibbert should have his hands full this morning, when two more big men expected to go in the first round — Frenchmen Alexis Ajinca and Serge Ibaka from the Republic of Congo — will be among the six prospects on hand.

Also scheduled: Oklahoma big man Longar Longar and point guards Sean Singletary (Virginia) and Kyle Weaver (Washington State).

With Hibbert's stock supposedly rising — one Internet mock draft, NBADraft.net's, has him going No. 18 to Washington, and another, ESPN.com's, projects he'll go No. 19 to Cleveland — either of the two foreign players could be a possibility at 23.

Ajinca, 20 years old and a 7-foot center, is an athletic and versatile big man who played last season for Hyeres-Toulon in his native France. Ibaka, 6-10 and just 18 years old, blocked 79 shots while playing 26 games last season for a second-level league team in Spain, C.B. L'Hospitalet.

Either could be drafted and — the Jazz's crowded roster in mind — left in Europe to mature.

They're among numerous power forward/center-types the Jazz are considering, including — but not limited to — Florida's Marreese Speights, Rider's Jason Thompson, Nevada's JaVale McGee, Ohio State's Kosta Koufos and Stanford's Robin Lopez.

"If you look at the makeup of our team," Perrin said of a club that has a veteran backup at center in Jarron Collins still under contract and a still-developing prospect in 2007 second-round selection Kyrylo Fesenko, "I think we're looking for who's gonna be the best finished product for us, and who's gonna help us in the long run.

"I don't know if anybody at 23 can come in this year and get a lot of minutes with the team we have coming back," he added. "If he can step on the court for five, 10, maybe 15 minutes a game, and give us what we want, that's great. But if we see that he's a guy we have to work with for a year or two years, we have no problems with that — because our team is pretty well set right now anyway."

Speights and Thompson have already visited Utah, and the Jazz have been trying to get McGee, Koufos and Lopez to come.

Speights, McGee and Koufos could all be gone as well by 23, but Thompson or Lopez could be there.

Thompson is more of a power forward than a center, and Lopez is more of a center — although, depending on matchups, Perrin said he "probably" could play alongside Jazz starting center Mehmet Okur.

McGee is a curios case in that reports from Toronto and on the Internet suggest his mother, ex-WNBA player Pamela McGee, isn't letting him work out for teams that don't pick 12th or higher — though he told the Sacramento Bee the only reason he didn't audition for the Raptors was he didn't have a passport.

The swingmen-heavy Jazz also have had a hard time persuading certain wing players who could be in their draft range to visit, including Brandon Rush of Kansas and Memphis' Chris Douglas-Roberts.

"There are some agents," Perrin said, "who will balk at bringing their guys in, because of what our roster is made up of."

But when push comes to shove the Jazz find a way to see everyone they want, such as scouting a recent multi-team workout at Golden State in which Rush took part.

It's evidence, the Jazz will insist, they really aren't locked into taking a big.

Sloan, in fact, recently shared an anecdote about when he was coaching the Chicago Bulls in 1979, and — because they already had Reggie Theus — they opted against drafting Sidney Moncrief and instead took David Greenwood at No. 2 overall.

Oops.

"We felt like we had to have a forward so we took a forward and passed on a guy who's an All-Star player," Sloan said. "That doesn't help the value of your franchise, in my opinion, when you make decisions that way."

2008 NBA Draft

When: Thursday night

Where: New York

TV: ESPN, 5 p.m.

The Jazz own three picks in the two-round, 60-selection draft: No. 23 overall in the first round, and No. 44 (originally belonging to Philadelphia, and acquired in 2005) and No. 53 in the second round.


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