Asked what he knew about the Utah Jazz, Noah Vonleh provided this abridged history: "Coach Jerry Sloan was here before, and now they got a new coach."
The teenage big man’s account skipped over the franchise’s recent past — coach Ty Corbin’s tenure and last year’s 57-loss season. The question for the Jazz brass later this month will be: Can Vonleh help Jazz fans forget about that entirely?
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At 18 years old, Vonleh is one of the youngest players in this year’s draft. He might also have one of the biggest upsides.
The Big 10 Freshman of the Year has seen his draft stock rise since last month, when he wowed scouts at the NBA’s pre-draft combine in Chicago. He measured 6-foot-8 without shoes and has a 7-foot-41/4 wingspan. His hands were the second largest ever measured at the combine. Vonleh also had a 9-foot standing reach and a 37-inch standing vertical — an inch and a half better than Kentucky’s Julius Randle, another highly rated power forward.
At Vonleh’s workout with the Jazz on Monday, the big man impressed team officials with his size and skill.
"His left-handed jump hook is pretty good for a right-hander," Jazz vice president of player personnel Walt Perrin said. "He’s got a nice drop step into the lane. He’s got a nice spin move going to the basket."
While some reports over the last weeks have said that Vonleh looked out of shape in other workouts, Perrin said he wasn’t concerned by Vonleh’s conditioning. Vonleh has also worked out for Orlando, Boston, Sacramento and the Lakers.
Vonleh averaged 11.3 points and nine rebounds a game as a freshman at Indiana, helping the Hoosiers go 17-15. His team missed the NCAA Tournament, but Vonleh said he believes he has what it takes to help the Jazz take the next step.
"I definitely think I can," he said. "It’s going to take some time. I’m a young guy."
The Jazz already have two young big men in Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter, but Vonleh sees a place for himself in the team’s lineup.
"I’ve been watching [Favors] since he was in high school," he said. "I think I would complement him pretty well. I could be like a stretch-four. He could play the five. I think we’d go well together."
Perrin also sees a fit.
"Noah can pass the ball," he said. "He can pick and pop and he gives you a little bit more rim protection because of his length and his hands."
Vonleh shot 48 percent from 3, but he took only 33 attempts from outside. Since leaving school, he said he’s worked on his shot and Perrin believes he could eventually add the NBA 3 to his repertoire.
"His form is pretty good," he said. "It’s just getting in the reps and making sure he’s disciplined in his shot prep."
The Jazz worked out eight players on Monday, including Vonleh. The others were Syracuse forward C.J. Fair; Oklahoma State guard Markel Brown; George Mason guard Byron Allen; UCLA forward David Wear; Utah State center Jared Shaw; and UTEP center John Bohannon.
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