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Adam Fondren, Deseret News
Ekpe Udoh's reads from the book "Little Fires Everywhere" by Celeste Ng during his book club at the Zions Bank Basketball Campus in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Dec. 28, 2017.

SALT LAKE CITY — Playing professional basketball definitely takes its share of physical strength, but Utah Jazz center Ekpe Udoh — who runs a largely online book club via Twitter — is as interested in working out his brain as he is his body.

“Knowledge is power,” Udoh said. “You can travel through the world’s history if that’s what you’re into, or if you’re into fiction, it can take you on a journey wherever you want to go.”

Adam Fondren, Deseret News
Ekpe Udoh laughs during his book club at the Zions Bank Basketball Campus in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Dec. 28, 2017.

The book club’s inception predates Udoh’s time with the Utah Jazz, starting five years ago when he played for the Milwaukee Bucks. While the Jazz player said he wasn’t as fond of reading growing up as he is now, he has found that his book club is a fun and unique way to interact with fans and book lovers throughout his career. But, said book club member Bentley Mitchell, participants shouldn't come to their meetings expecting a lot of talk about basketball.

“When we are in the discussions, it’s easy to forget that he plays for the Jazz,” Mitchell said. “He’s the guy in charge of the book club and one of the participants, and the fact that he’s a professional basketball player becomes secondary to that.”

Day to day, basketball dominates Udoh's schedule, with practices and games during the NBA season, but he does manage to carve out time to read during his free time.

“This is something you’ve got to want to do,” Udoh said. “You’ve got to put forth the effort to gain that knowledge.”

Udoh's book club reads both fiction and nonfiction. He said he especially enjoys history books, but he also recommends “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho, “Keep Quiet” by Lisa Scottoline and the book club’s latest read, “Little Fires Everywhere” by Celeste Ng.

Salt Lake City resident Rob Treseder and his wife, who are Jazz season ticket holders, joined Ekpe’s Book Club after seeing Udoh’s tweets about it and attended the book club’s latest meetup on Dec. 28.

Adam Fondren, Deseret News
Ekpe Udoh's book club discussing the book "Little Fires Everywhere" by Celeste Ng at the Zions Bank Basketball Campus in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Dec. 28, 2017.

Treseder said he was impressed with the discussion and the way Udoh kept the focus on the book — it was clear that this wasn't a chance for people to hang out with or get an autograph from an NBA player.

“Everybody had read the book, knew a lot about it and had some great comments. I learned a lot just being in the discussion,” Treseder said. “Of course we enjoyed meeting Ekpe Udoh and the other people there, but the focus was definitely on the book and on the issues that the book brought up.”

Mitchell, a longtime Jazz fan who likewise found out about the group via Twitter, said the book club meetings have been a “real highlight.”

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“I’ve been blown away by Ekpe’s insights and ability to bring people together,” Mitchell said. “I’ve gained lots of insights from the other book club members and in the process broadened my own perspective about a variety of issues. I’ve also been reminded how much reading is both important and fun, as well as what fun a book club can be.”

Next up on the group’s reading list is either Jesmyn Ward’s “Sing, Unburied, Sing” or Colson Whitehead’s “The Underground Railroad,” according to a recent tweet from Udoh.

“I’m just looking forward to getting started on the next book and going to another discussion group in the future,” Treseder said.

Adam Fondren, Deseret News
Ekpe Udoh's reads from the book "Little Fires Everywhere" by Celeste Ng during his book club at the Zions Bank Basketball Campus in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Dec. 28, 2017.