Hard work brings joy for Utah Jazz’s DeMarre Carroll
NBA • Small forward intends to make his presence known with his energy.
Published: September 1, 2012 03:36PM
Updated: September 4, 2012 04:39PM
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Lennie Mahler | The Salt Lake Tribune DeMarre Carroll and Alec Burks chat during locker clean-out day at EnergySolutions Arena on Monday, May 8, 2012.

Morgan • DeMarre Carroll knows what’s coming. Another position battle. Another month-long training camp that’s supposed to be about detailed preparation for the 2012-13 NBA season but technically is an all-out war.

For three years in the NBA, Carroll couldn’t make anything stick. He was a first-round disappointment in Memphis, then overlooked and cast aside in Houston and Denver.

For a month with the Jazz during the 2011-12 season, Carroll finally made it work. After quietly being signed midseason and stuck on Utah’s bench for 21 forgettable games, the former Missouri standout was given a real shot in March and quickly came to life. Carroll averaged 6 points and 3 rebounds during the Jazz’s last 13 regular-season games, playing a key role in Utah’s resilient push for the postseason and only losing his spot in the starting rotation when the Jazz faced San Antonio in the first round.

Now, Carroll’s climb will begin again. Utah still hasn’t settled on a starting small forward, and the 6-foot-8, 212-pound hustler from Birmingham, Ala., plans to cash in on coach Tyrone Corbin’s often-repeated statement that all five of the Jazz’s primary roles are up for grabs when camp opens in October.

“I’ve been doing it my whole life,” said Carroll, following a Junior Jazz appearance Monday at the Trojan Legacy Center near Morgan High School. “Guys like me, there’s a lot of need for guys like me in the NBA.”

Carroll’s fully aware Utah’s stacked in the frontcourt. Gordon Hayward, newly acquired veteran Marvin Williams and 2012 NBA All-Star slam-dunk champion Jeremy Evans are expected to compete for time at small forward, while the Jazz’s big lineup featuring Al Jefferson and Derrick Favors turns Paul Millsap into a 3.

Does Carroll care about the buildup? No. Like many, he sees the depth as a team asset. And he knows that every strong NBA squad features one rotational player content to scrap, claw and dig — and occasionally drill a wide-open 3-pointer.

“Top teams, they have one guy who’s an energy guy,” said Carroll, who’s averaged 3 points, 2 rebounds and 11.1 minutes since entering the league as the No. 27 overall pick in the 2009 draft. “You can look at Memphis: Tony Allen. Thunder: [Thabo] Sefolosha. You can always go down the list. At one point, Chicago: Ronnie Brewer was out there, doing his thing.”

Carroll expects to enter camp in excellent health. A sprained left ankle that limited his play in Summer League action has healed well. He recently participated in Don McLean-run workouts with Indiana’s Paul George and Danny Granger in Los Angeles, fine-tuning a 3-point shot that showed improvement during his April rise. A Chicago trip to team up with Utah center Enes Kanter is also on the calendar.

By the time Carroll kicks up his activity in September, preparing for the grind of a month-long camp, his focus will be as much mental as physical. Carroll wants to set the tone as soon as Corbin blows his whistle, believing he can gain an edge in the battle for a rotation spot by being the most aggressive athlete on the court.

“My energy going into training camp is really going to set the bar [for] how our team go,” Carroll said. “I’m a very emotional guy when I’m on the court. … We already got our leaders. But still, going in, lead by example, by my energy and by my level of play.”

Monday was devoted to relaxing and giving back. Taking the reins from Evans and Favors, Carroll led about 100 Morgan children and teenagers in an hour-long session centered around basketball fundamentals, smiles and laughter.

He joked about Favors always being hungry and eating all the food on the team plane. He said Jefferson is a bully, technically Kanter’s big brother, and the sweetest mean guy in the league. And when Carroll drained a running half-court shot, eliciting a roar from the Morgan faithful, the first of 16 Junior Jazz camps this week in Utah, Wyoming and Idaho became exactly what Carroll wanted it to be: a reminder hard work brings real joy.

“It’s amazing to come out there with these kids. … I’ve been going through this and I was always like them. I was the second-, third-tier guy — not the most-talented guy,” Carroll said.

He added: “Hard work pays off. Hard work is a talent.”

bsmith@sltrib.com

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Junior Jazz schedule

Thursday

10 a.m. • Kemmerer, Wyo.

12:30 p.m. • Cokeville, Wyo.

3:30 p.m. • Soda Springs, Idaho

Friday

10 a.m. • Logan

12:30 p.m. • Malad, Idaho

DeMarre Carroll file

Position • Small forward

Year • 3

Vitals • 6-foot-8, 212 pounds

2011-12 stats with Jazz • 4.8 pts, 2.5 reb, 0.8 ast in 20 games (9 starts)

Career • 3 pts, 2 reb, 0.5 ast in 107 games

Draft • No. 27 overall in 2009 by Memphis

College • Missouri