Utah Jazz: Lehigh’s McCollum says Jazz would be good fit
Jazz • Lehigh point guard confident he can play in NBA.
Published: June 12, 2013 11:45PM
Updated: December 7, 2013 11:33PM
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Lehigh's C.J. McCollum reacts during the first half of a South Regional NCAA tournament second-round college basketball game against Duke in Greensboro, N.C., Friday, March 16, 2012. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

In the build-up to draft day, Lehigh guard C.J. McCollum has frequently drawn comparisons to Rookie of the Year and former Weber State star Damian Lillard. On Wednesday, the Utah Jazz enlisted the help of someone who should know.

“They have similar games,” said Lillard’s former teammate Scott Bamforth. “I think Dame handles the ball a little bit more, but I think they have similar games.”

The Jazz worked out both McCollum, a projected lottery pick, and Bamforth, a fringe NBA prospect, but the focus was squarely on the heralded guard out of the Patriot League. The Jazz have no point guards under contract and with the Nos. 14 and 21 picks in the first round are heavily expected to emerge from draft day with at least one point guard.

McCollum, a combo guard who played in only 11 games last year at Lehigh, did his part to assuage any concerns over whether he could play point guard in the NBA.

“Absolutely,” he said. “I feel like I’m going to.”

The 21-year-old said he saw the Jazz as a good fit and called the culture “perfect for me.”

“I feel like I’d thrive in an environment like this,” he said. “Just because it’s more laid-back, kind of like Lehigh, where it’s not too much to do but at the same time it’s a very good community and it’s the only show in town.”

Most mock drafts project McCollum to go several picks higher than the Jazz’s first selection, which could mean that the Jazz would need to trade up if he was their target.

McCollum has also worked out for Orlando, Phoenix, Philadelphia, Sacramento and Portland, where he said he thought he would be able to complement Lillard’s game. On Wednesday, he said he liked the comparison to the Rookie of the Year who, like McCollum, burst onto the scene after playing four years at a small school.

“I see a lot of different similarities,” McCollum said. “We’re both very poised, we both have an ability to knock down a lot of shots in a hurry.”

In four years at Lehigh, McCollum averaged 21.7 points and 6.1 rebounds but just 2.7 assists per game. As for whether the Jazz see McCollum as a point guard, their most pressing position, remains to be seen.

“It’s kind of tough to see that in a one-on-one type workout,” said Walt Perrin, the Jazz’s vice president of player personnel. “It’s something that we’ll work out in terms of watching more tapes, talking with him and trying to make that determination.”

McCollum said he struggled with the altitude, which Perrin said is to be expected.

“He struggled, but he fought,” Perrin said. “He started shooting it a little better later in the workout, and that’s what we like to see.”

boram@sltrib.com