Justin Wright-Foreman was recalling a moment from the Jazz’s Oct. 9 preseason game in Milwaukee, where he was on the bench, fuming at himself for not playing well, when Donovan Mitchell moved from his spot to come sit down next to him.
“I’m out of it, I’m zoned out, I’m not even looking at him, and he says to me, ‘Why you sulking, man? It’s the preseason. And you’re a rookie. You’re here to learn. So keep your head up,’” Wright-Foreman recalled at Thursday’s Salt Lake City Stars media day event. “That was big. That meant a lot.”
It goes without saying that the rookie second-rounder out of Hofstra wants to play for the Jazz. But after that bit of advice he got from Mitchell, the two-way player certainly understands the value of spending much of the coming G League season with the Stars.
He is definitely here to learn.
For that matter, they all are.
Asked what his goal was for the coming season (the Stars will begin play Nov. 10 in Sioux Falls, Iowa), coach Martin Schiller was succinct.
“Like every season, developing the guys, first and foremost; and then, off development, hopefully winning some games, too,” he said.
He and his staff have crafted individual development plans for every player on the Stars roster, with the Jazz coaches contributing to the plans for the two-way guys and others who may be sent down on assignment.
The guys on the team certainly recognize the opportunity inherent in their situation. An extreme example of an act to follow is two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert, whose rookie season included plenty of time in the G League.
Jazz forward Georges Niang, meanwhile, was able to parlay a two-way contract and a subsequent successful campaign with the Stars into a full-time NBA contract.
Those guys, and the work they put in, are very much on the minds of this new batch.
“There’s a lot of guys with the Jazz who took a lot of different routes,” pointed out rookie forward Jarrell Brantley, the Jazz’s other two-way signee. “… I’ve been with the Jazz for the last month, so the biggest thing for me now is I get to use what I learned. … My goal is just to continue to be a sponge and take whatever I can.”
Former BYU star and Dallas Mavericks wing Kyle Collinsworth was brought in to help show some of the new players the ropes. Of course, he hopes to be more than someone who can show his teammates the ins and outs of life in the G League — he still hopes to become one of those success stories, a guy who worked hard enough and showed enough to earn a spot in the big time.
And he knows that, the way the Jazz view the Stars, he’ll get every opportunity to prove he deserves exactly that.
“Absolutely. If the team doesn’t value the G League, if they don’t call people up, then I wouldn’t be here,” he said.