SALT LAKE CITY — With his practice gear soaked in sweat, 20-year-old Élie Okobo was all ears when Utah Jazz forward Thabo Sefolosha approached him with advice at Zions Bank Basketball Center Thursday.
For the second consecutive offseason, Okobo joined a group of NBA prospects for a pre-draft workout with the Jazz organization only this time Sefolosha was in attendance.
“We have the same agent so I texted him yesterday and he came today so I really appreciate it,” Okobo said.
As Sefolosha continues to rehab from his season-ending knee injury, he’s been an ever-present fixture around the Jazz practice facility lately.
Based off last year’s experience in Salt Lake City, the 6-foot-2, 180-pound guard said he knew he needed to improve on his body, physicality and defensive ability to stick in the NBA but being reaffirmed by Sefolosha’s veteran presence and past experiences was certainly a booster. It also helped that he can communicate in a familiar tone.
“He speaks French so it’s easier,” Okobo said. “He told me about his story when he went to the workout at and the way he was working to show the team what he can do.
“He gave me those type of advices like ‘give your best’ and ‘show what you can do first’ and then bring energy and defense and it’s a good experience and a good process for this month and I enjoy it.”
Davidson’s Peyton Aldridge, Arizona’s Rawle Alkins, Tulane’s Melvin Frazier, Ohio State’s Jae’Sean Tate and IMG Academy’s Anfernee Simons joined Okobo in the workout.
After witnessing the action, Utah Jazz vice president of player personnel Walt Perrin said Okobo has made noticeable improvements in his overall game. He put up a career-best 13.8 points, 4.7 assists and 2.7 rebounds this past season in the top Pro A league in France.
He also shot the best among the six prospects in the famous Jazz 100 drill, where draft hopefuls have to shoot the ball 100 times in a row from various spots around the 3-point line.
“Smooth offensively, pretty good shooter, handles it pretty well,” Perrin said of Okobo. “Tough to see certain stuff three-on-three in terms of is he a point guard or not. Had a pretty good workout, probably needs to improve his defense but I think most of the guys in this workout probably need to improve their defense.”
Utah holds the No. 21 and No. 52 picks in the upcoming draft on June 21. Okobo is looking to join the list of other French point guards to experience NBA success such as San Antonio’s Tony Parker and New York’s Frank Ntilikina.
Jazz Defensive Player of the Year finalist Rudy Gobert is another famous Frenchman who continues to make some noise in the league.
“I think all those guys are good examples for the young players in France and for me, too,” Okobo said. “I try to take the same way and I work hard to get there and it’s inspiring to see all those French people in the NBA right now.”