LAS VEGAS — After a strong drive past his defender, Utah Jazz second-round pick Jarrell Brantley met San Antonio’s Drew Eubanks at the hoop with a thunderous left-handed jam during Salt Lake City Summer League action on Wednesday.
Roaming the sidelines for the Jazz was 30-year-old Lamar Skeeter as head coach of the Salt Lake-based summer league roster.
Internally, the play was impressive, but he was too seasoned to show any emotion.
“You kind of get excited, but you just save it for later,” Skeeter admitted.
Skeeter, Utah’s assistant/player development coach, led the team to a 2-1 record at Vivint Arena July 1-3 before it took off for the 2019 NBA Summer League in Las Vegas, where Johnnie Bryant then took over as the head coach. Utah defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder, 78-66, on Saturday to start 1-0.
“One thing about him is that he’s a great teacher so he’s always telling us ‘hey, do this,’ but he also gives us the freedom to do what we want to do as well,” Bryant said of Jazz head coach Quin Snyder. “So we have our foundation with what we want to do as far as Jazz basketball and what he wants to do, but he also gives us the freedom to explore while we’re coaching out there.
“Quin’s been great for everyone.”
Even after losing two assistants from the Jazz coaching staff this offseason, with Antonio Lang going to Cleveland and Fotis Katsikaris headed back to Spain, Snyder remains hands-on with the teaching process of his other guys. He allows Salt Lake City Stars coach Martin Schiller to join the summer league staff so that the team principles are shared on every level and things continue to run fluidly.
“We talk a lot. Coach has such a tremendous impact on me and the rest of the staff,” Skeeter said of Snyder. “There’s no way we can go through this process without him. I just try and pick his brain and get his input on things and he watches. He knows what’s going on.
“We talk every day so there’s a lot of different things from schemes to what you’re doing in practice or how to use this guy or that guy and there’s just a lot that goes on there, but he’s very involved,” he continued. “For me, personally, and the rest of our staff, we always appreciate that.”
Skeeter was a former hardwood standout at Walsh University, earning NAIA Third Team All-American honors, and Bryant also played at the University of Utah as a native of Oakland, California. That previous basketball experience, coupled with their ages and calm demeanors, makes them relatable to players, but that hasn’t stopped them from teaching the new draftees such as Brantley, Justin Wright-Foreman and Miye Oni the system they’ll be learning if they make the roster in 2019-20 on a high level.
“I can relate to them on certain aspects of life with basketball. It’s somewhat natural to kind of build a relationship and relate to them a little bit but at the same time I’m the coach,” Skeeter said. “I’m not a player so I have to be very professional with that relationship and these guys know I spend a lot of time and all of us coaches on the staff, we spend a lot of time breaking down film and going through different situations and studying the game of how we can get better and how we can help the team get better.”
The commitment from the coaching staff, even during summer league, certainly hasn’t gone unnoticed by the players. After three years at Yale, where he was selected as Ivy League Player of the Year for back-to-back seasons, Oni says his basketball knowledge was enhanced in his first week with the Jazz.Comment on this story
“A lot of different input from different styles and everything coming together,” Oni said. “It’s just a great coaching staff. Coach Skeeter is great. He’s taught us a lot, especially defensively and how to guard.”
Having great teachers in his first taste of NBA experience is part of the reason why Brantley was so confident in attacking off the dribble with confidence like he did against the Spurs.
“The main part about Summer League is the coaches giving me opportunities, so that’s the most amazing thing,” Brantley said. “They believe in me and I’m so grateful to be in this organization."