Fesenko makes strides
Kyrylo Fesenko looked smooth and free, easily gliding across the court while dishing out touch passes and confidently converting layups.
He appeared so at ease, in fact, that Jazz coach Jerry Sloan was becoming a little distracted.
Sloan was attempting to discuss the gradual evolution of the third-string Utah center. But as Fesenko raced up and down the hardwood early Tuesday morning, running in tandem with Jazz shooting coach Jeff Hornacek, everything that Sloan and the organization that he works for have spent four seasons waiting to see from the 24-year-old Ukrainian native was in full view.
At least for a little while.
"He does much more work than he used to," said Sloan, prior to practice at the team workout facility.
The work is represented in a variety of facets for the fourth-year center who is averaging 2.2 points, 2.1 rebounds and 8.9 minutes this season. The 7-foot-1 big man's offensive touch, footwork and passing skills have improved. But his free throw shooting, overall shot selection and defense still demand attention, as his does his weight.
A slimmed-down Fesenko entered training camp at 280 pounds. He said that he does not know how much he tips the scale at now.
He appears to have added body mass, though, while a Jazz assistant coach acknowledged that the center's conditioning is still a point of concern.
But like Fesenko's 37.8 percent accuracy from the free-throw line and his tendency to commit one foul for every 4.6 minutes of action, everything from his on-the-court endurance to his self-actualization remains a work in progress.
Fesenko is still the undisputed jokester of the Jazz. However, he takes his chosen profession much more seriously than when he first joined Utah in 2007.
"I'm ambitious," Fesenko said. "So I'm going to fight for the best position I can get."
His ambition was evident during the preseason, when he asserted that he planned to battle Al Jefferson for Utah's starting center spot Â Jefferson won in an instant knockout. A combination of injuries and inconsistency have also held back Fesenko's planned ascension, while fellow reserve center Francisco Elson has often been the Jazz's No. 2 option.
Utah's coaches believe that Fesenko has the ability to excel. But Sloan also pointed out that Fesenko is still prone to immaturity and sometimes talks too much instead of simply listening.
"If the light goes on there isn't a person here that wouldn't tell you he doesn't have terrific talent," Sloan said.
Fesenko might eventually have to look elsewhere to display the talent.
He is playing out a one-year deal worth $1.1 million, after turning down an offer last summer to sign a restricted free-agent sheet with Houston.
Until then, the work continues. The brief glimpses of promise remain. But so does the understanding that the only person who can light Fesenko's fire is himself.
"You need to be ready because this is the league," Fesenko said. "You don't know when you might need to step up and show your A game."
Kyrylo Fesenko file
Position • Center
Year • 4
Vitals • 7-foot-1, 280 pounds
Age • 24
Stats • 2.2 points, 2.1 rebounds, 0.5 blocks 8.9 minutes in 35 games
Did you know? • Fesenko averages one foul for every 4.6 minutes that he's on the court.
Next step • Fesenko will play for the Ukraine this summer in the International Basketball Federation's EuroBasket tournament in Lithuania, competing against teammate and Russian native Andrei Kirilenko.