SALT LAKE CITY — Loud roars showered Vivint Arena as Ekpe Udoh was announced on the video screen during the Utah Jazz’s Summer League opener Monday.
Just hours earlier, the 6-foot-10 center also drew a huge crowd of kids as he strolled through the Utah Jazz 3-on-3 Tournament in 90-degree heat in the parking lot across the street from the arena.
“It’s a great experience for everybody who’s involved and competing,” Udoh said. “I remember growing up, I would play on concrete courts with chain nets, so that’s a great feeling.”
Udoh, 31, has spent the bulk of his offseason training in Salt Lake City and is well liked by fans and players, but the team has a decision to make about his future soon.
Utah has until July 9 to decide on whether or not to guarantee Udoh’s $3.4 million contract.
“You know, we’ll see what happens,” Udoh told the Deseret News. “I’m grateful. I’m getting great workouts at the facility.
“I’ve been here pretty much since the season has been over outside of a couple trips, but I’ve just been getting in good work.”
On the court, Udoh was effective off the bench in 63 games for the Jazz, averaging 2.6 points, 2.4 rebounds and 1.2 blocks while making three starts. Defensively is where he made his mark, finding ways to be effective in short spurts of 12.9 minutes per game, while thriving in the plus-minus metrics.
But his impact throughout the Salt Lake City community and his hometown of Edmond, Oklahoma, is where he’s left an even bigger mark.
Udoh’s book clubreally took off this season, where he was able to bond with fans. He also kicked off his “Let’s Get Right” hydroponic farming company to produce fresh vegetables in Oklahoma and will host his fourth annual youth basketball camp on July 16-17 at The Hive in Edmond.
As Udoh awaits the Jazz’s decision, he’s proud of the recent front office moves to draft former Duke star Grayson Allen and keep free agents Derrick Favors, Raul Neto and Dante Exum. He’s prepared to return in a Jazz uniform but also understands the business of the league.
“It’s gonna be a fun season,” Udoh said. “The West has gotten better but we’ve gotten better and we’re gonna be the same team next year. Starting last year, you didn’t know what you were going to get with so many new pieces, but now we’ll be ready from the beginning.”