It’s a great opportunity. I’m a huge Jazz fan, so it’s an honor to be here and to work out with the guys. Learned a lot from the guys, learned a lot from the coaches, so I’m really happy. —Kenneth Ogbe
SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Valley wing Kenneth Ogbe woke up Tuesday morning to a bunch of missed phone calls from Wolverines head coach Mark Pope and a knock on his window from former University of Utah teammate and best friend Austin Eastman.
There was good reason for the duo trying to get hold of Ogbe: the Utah Jazz needed him to head to Zions Bank Basketball Campus for a predraft workout after Colorado’s George King couldn’t get into Salt Lake City because of weather problems.
Although it was last-minute and he didn’t have a whole lot of time to prepare for it, Ogbe was happy to have the opportunity to show Jazz brass what he could do.
“It’s a great opportunity,” he said. “I’m a huge Jazz fan, so it’s an honor to be here and to work out with the guys. Learned a lot from the guys, learned a lot from the coaches, so I’m really happy.”
Ogbe was joined in the workout by Saint Mary’s big man Jock Landale, Arkansas guard Jaylen Barford, Xavier guard Trevon Bluiett, Western Kentucky big man Dwight Coleby and Nevada wing Caleb Martin. Jazz vice president of player personnel Walt Perrin said that the plan is to bring King in at a later date.
A native of Munich, Germany, Ogbe said he’s looking forward to seeing where his basketball career takes him after he nearly gave up on the sport because of injuries that severely limited him during his time with the Runnin’ Utes.
As a senior with the Wolverines, the rangy wing started and played in 33 of 34 games, and averaged a team-high 13.7 points to go along with 3.2 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game.
“I’m not taking basketball for granted anymore,” he said. “I just work as hard as I can and see where I can go.”
He specifically hopes he can end up back in Europe.
“It’s always been my dream to play back home,” he said. “That’s what I want to do right now. I think that’s the next step for me, and then we’ll see.”
Landale is the other player at Tuesday’s workout whose name is likely most-known locally. The 6-foot-11, 255-pound Australian is the reigning West Coast Conference Player of the Year after a senior season at Saint Mary’s in which he averaged 21.1 points, 10.2 rebounds, two assists and a block per game.
In three matchups against BYU, he averaged 28.7 points per contest. He said he particularly remembers the last time he played at the Marriott Center, a game in which he finished with 31 points and 13 rebounds as the Gaels got past the Cougars in overtime.
“The altitude was killing everyone,” he said. “The best part about it was just the environment, playing at BYU in front of that crowd. I loved every second of it.”
The big man joked that it might be a national requirement for Aussies to work out with the Jazz given the presence of Joe Ingles and Dante Exum on Utah’s roster.
“Joe and Dante are awesome players and they’ve made their mark here, so if we can keep pulling some Australians in here, that’d be pretty cool,” he said, noting that he has worked out a few times with both Ingles and Exum. “I’d like that at least.”
Dominant with the Gaels as a back-to-the-basket player, Landale wants to be able to show other skills during workouts that will translate better to the NBA.
“I don’t think that I’m just an old school post player,” he said. “Obviously I’m not the most athletic guy out on the court, but I think that I make up for it with how smart I am. I can beat guys with my brain.”