SALT LAKE CITY — Following Sunday’s workout with the Utah Jazz, NBA hopeful Cleanthony Early admitted he’s been waiting to play at this level since he was shooting crumpled-up pieces of paper into a garbage can and cutting out the bottom of cardboard shoeboxes to make resourceful hoops as a kid.
“It’s everyone’s dream,” the former Wichita State star said.
For C.J. Wilcox, another participant, that dream began while he was growing up in Pleasant Grove.
“It’s kind of cool to come back and be able to work with them, (the Jazz) growing up from here,” said Wilcox, who used to train with Jazz player development coach Johnnie Bryant. “You kind of imagine yourself being in this position.”
Wilcox’s game, especially his outside shooting, has continued to surge since the days when he played for the Vikings, battled against the likes of former Lone Peak standout Tyler Haws and then moved on to become a two-time All-Pac-12 second-teamer at Washington.
The 6-foot-5 guard, whose dad Craig played at BYU from 1993-95, is ranked 32nd on ESPN writer Chad Ford’s Top 100 board, but his shooting expertise, athleticism and maturity could help the 23-year-old move up into the first round.
“I think he has a couple of skills. He can really shoot it and he’s not a bad athlete for his position. He can really run the court,” Jazz vice president of player personnel Walt Perrin said. “He played really hard today. I think he can make it.”
Wilcox shot in the 60-percent range in his shooting drills at Zions Bank Basketball Center, showing that his hyped showing at the NBA draft combine in Chicago last month wasn't a fluke.
Wilcox, the Pac-12's top 3-point shooter last season, said his support group from Utah isn’t being shy about where his preferred landing spot in the NBA is.
“Everybody wants me to play here,” said Wilcox, whose family has moved to San Diego since he left Pleasant Grove to play in Washington. “They’re all excited for this workout for me and wished me the best.”
Forward Glenn Robinson III also has a reason why he’d want to play in Utah. His old college teammate from Michigan is the Jazz’s point guard. As a freshman, Robinson teamed with Utah rookie Trey Burke and the Knicks’ Tim Hardaway Jr. to help the Wolverines advance to the 2013 NCAA championship game.
“I talked to Trey (Burke) a bunch about Utah, the Jazz, his experiences, his ups and downs,” Robinson said. “He really helped me out throughout the process.”
Robinson, ranked 33rd by Ford, smiled when asked about possibly playing with Burke again if the Jazz pick him at either 23rd or 35th.
“I’ve never played on the court with another point guard and we had that type of chemistry,” Robinson, whose dad was the first overall pick of the 1994 draft, said. “It would be great to play with him again. I learned a lot from Trey.”
Sunday’s workout turned out to be a bit disappointing for Jazz management. Former North Carolina shooint guard P.J. Hairston, a projected mid-to-late first-round pick who played for the Texas Legends in the D-League last season, had to receive treatment for back spasms instead of participating. Not only did that prevent him from working out in Utah — something the Jazz hope he’ll be able to do in the upcoming weeks — but it also limited what the Jazz could have the other five guys do.
That explained why former University of Utah big man Alex Jensen was drenched in sweat by the time reporters were allowed into the ZBBC gym following the session, which also included Youngstown State guard Kendrick Perry and San Diego State guard Xavier Thames.
The Jazz weren’t able to have players do some full-court scrimmaging, which is one of the key aspects of workouts. But Jensen, who’s helped Bryant run the pre-draft workouts because the team doesn’t have a coaching staff, filled in for Hairston during some half-court action.
How did the 38-year-old player development coach do? Perrin chuckled.
“You wouldn’t want the scouting report on Alex.”