Tabiona • Derrick Favors was swarmed. Kids surrounded him. Questions poured in. All while basketballs bounced around his muscular frame and parents eagerly watched the young Jazz forward stand tall.
For more than an hour Monday, Favors owned this little eastern Utah town, holding center court inside a small gymnasium at an LDS church.
Favors was initially scheduled to run a Junior Jazz clinic at Tabiona Public School, a K-12 facility that educates 160 children. The gym was unavailable, though. So the Junior Jazz set up across the street, turning the gym — wood-and-brick walls, two glass goals bolted into the framework, a peaked roof and a performance stage — into Favors’ coming-out party.
The third-year Jazz forward knows, technically, he’s too big for Junior Jazz. He’s started an NBA playoff game. He’s pushing Paul Millsap for a spot in Utah’s starting rotation. And the promising 21-year-old big man is on the verge of breaking through to the next level of his career.
But just weeks after competing with teammate Gordon Hayward as part of the U.S. Olympic select team, practicing against stars such as Kobe Bryant and LeBron James before they headed to London for the 2012 Summer Games, Favors didn’t hesitate when the Jazz asked him to spend a week in late July crisscrossing some of the quietest and most remote parts of Utah.
"I just wanted to get out and see more. … It’s me just going around and counseling the kids, so I’ll do it," said Favors, who’ll resume training in late August in Santa Barbara, Calif., then ramp up his conditioning in September for the start of the 2012-13 season.
He added: "I’m getting used to it. People around here are nice and they welcome you. It’s just a great place."
The No. 3 overall pick of the 2010 NBA Draft acknowledged Utah is "different" — a world removed from his big-city hometown of Atlanta and Newark, N.J., where he spent the first part of his professional career. But the once-shy Favors is coming into his own as a public personality, and he wanted to learn more about everything from Utah’s unique geography to the overwhelming passion of small-town Jazz fans.
So Favors was in Tabiona early Monday. He ran a series of basketball drills, leading a group of about 60 children and young teenagers in passing and dribbling sessions. He played a hilarious game of 1-on-2 against two kids, blocking shots as soon as they were nervously released and easily flipping the ball into a rim he kept swearing was taller than 10 feet. He took pictures, signed autographs and laughed more in 75 minutes than he normally does during a week inside the Jazz’s locker room. And Favors answered a ton of questions.
Simple ones: His favorite food (barbecue), color (red and black), shoe size (16).
Tougher ones: His best friend in the NBA (no one), toughest player to defend (Kobe Bryant), favorite non-Jazz team (Los Angeles Lakers).
"When I was growing up, I was a huge Kobe fan," Favors said. "Like, Kobe was my favorite player ever."Next Page »