Casper Ware expected tough competition last summer in the Drew League, one of the best summer basketball programs in the country.
Teaming up with LeBron James for one game, though, wasn't on the menu for Ware, the tiny yet well-built point guard out of Long Beach State. But play, and win, with him he did, as James showed up on a hot Los Angeles afternoon, a year before putting his stamp on an NBA title with the Miami Heat.
For Ware, who worked out with the Utah Jazz on Saturday morning, it was about the experience. And the challenge of feeding the best player in the world in all the right spots. In a summer league featuring a number of NBA players, Ware went on to win MVP honors, which catapulted him to a standout senior season in which he was recognized as one of the best point guards in the country.
"LeBron was great to me," Ware said. "He told us to play our games, because he was going to get his regardless. It was a great experience for me. It gave me the confidence to know I could play at this level."
Now, a summer after playing with the best the league has to offer, Ware is simply trying to convince a team he can play in the NBA.
Ware was in one of two groups that played before Utah brass on Saturday. He was in the same group that featured former Lone Peak and LSU star Justin Hamilton.
Ware, listed at 5-foot-10 and 175 pounds on Long Beach State's roster, has a chance to be picked by the Jazz in Thursday's NBA Draft, as Utah holds the 47th overall selection, and could be in the market for a backup point guard.
"He can score, and that's what you need to be able to do in this league," Jazz head coach Ty Corbin said. "He's tough, and he's a good defender."
That being said, Ware knows that he has to prove he can run a team, and that he can distribute the ball. With Earl Watson heading into the last season of his contract, along with Devin Harris, Utah's point guard lineup could look drastically different in the near future.
Ware has worked out for 12 teams in the past month, and has no idea where he will end up on draft night. But his confidence has carried him through.
He believes he can play at the next level, and believes he can contribute when he receives the chance.
"I'm going to be able to defend," Ware said. "I won't let guys get past me. I just hope that I can get the chance to prove myself."
Players working out with the Jazz
Travis Hyman, forward, 7-0, Bowie State
Travis Lacombe, guard, 6-5, France
Josh Magette, guard, 6-1, Alabama-Huntsville
Greg Mangano, forward, 6-10, Yale
Terrell Stoglin, guard, 6-1, Maryland
Wesley Witherspoon, forward, 6-9, Memphis
Justin Hamilton, center, 7-0, LonePeak/LSU
Reggie Hamilton, guard, 5-11, Oakland (MI)
Negueba Samake, center, 6-11, Republic of Mali
Greg Somogyi, center, 7-2, UC Santa Barbara
Casper Ware, guard, 5-10, Long Beach State
Tomislav Zubcic, forward, 6-10, Croatia