Taylor Braun had one option if he wanted to play Division I basketball.
After graduating from high school in Newberg, Ore., the 6-foot-7 swingman’s only scholarship offer came from North Dakota State University. Four years later, Braun ranks top 10 in school history for points, steals and rebounds. He averaged 17.6 points a game as a senior and led the Bison to the first NCAA Tournament win in school history.
“I was only given one opportunity,” he said. “I feel like I made the most of it and then some.”
The Utah Jazz are looking to maximize an opportunity, too.
With three picks to their name in the June draft and a roster sorely in need of talent, the Jazz on Wednesday began their pre-draft workouts, hosting Braun and five other players for evaluation. A year after bringing roughly 100 players to Salt Lake City, the Jazz are taking the same no-stone-unturned approach.
“Last year I know I broke the record,” Jazz vice president of player personnel Walt Perrin said of the number of players brought in for workouts. “We’re all in the business of trying to break records. So who knows? It will be close.”
Anchored by freshman phenoms Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker and Joel Embiid, this year’s draft class could be the most talented in a decade, though Perrin has some reservations.
“I don’t know if anything ever lives up to the hype,” he said. “Is this draft going to be similar to the year LeBron and Carmelo and Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh and Kirk Hinrich and all those guys [were drafted]? I don’t think so. But is it going to be a better draft than we’ve had in the past? It can be, yes.”
And so there’s a strong chance none of the six players who worked out Wednesday at Zions Bank Basketball Center will hear his name called in either round. Of the six, only Virginia defensive specialist Akil Mitchell (76) and Providence’s Bryce Cotton (85) made DraftExpress.com’s Top 100 list. ESPN analyst Chad Ford, meanwhile, ranked Cotton No. 62 and Oregon forward Mike Moser No. 65 on his list.
“This is a stage you dream about since you were a little kid,” said Cotton, the undersized point guard who nearly led Providence to an upset of North Carolina in this year’s tournament. “To be a part of it is definitely a blessing. Every person has an opportunity to seize the moment.”
As he did in Fargo, Braun believes he just needs a shot to prove himself at the next level.
“I’m fully confident in what I can do,” he said. “I think it will take a little time to adjust, but if a team gives me an opportunity, it won’t be a waste of time.”
Utah will bring in six more players for workouts Thursday. Once again, none is projected to be drafted before the Jazz exhaust their trio of picks. But there’s still value in getting a closer look.
“Not only are we looking at guys for this year’s draft, but you’re able to get a lot of information and a get a feel for players if you’re looking at them down the road in terms of trades, picking them up for [10-day contracts], whatever,” Perrin said.
The Jazz own a lottery pick (the exact fate of which will be known later this month), the No. 23 pick (via Golden State) and the fourth selection of the second round.
“Franchise players. All-Stars. That’s what we’re looking to get,” Perrin said. “But we also understand that we need depth. We need rotation players. And we have a lot of needs in terms of shooting, in terms of defense and rebounding.”
• Oakland guard Travis Bader
• Cal guard Justin Cobbs
• Oklahoma forward Cameron Clark
• Seton Hall swingman Fuquan Edwin
• Stanford forward Josh Huestis
• Memphis guard Joe Jackson