It was on the ninth question that Keita Bates-Diop had to bow out.
The 2018 Big Ten Player of the Year, who averaged nearly 20 points and nine rebounds for Ohio State last season, had to take a break after his Jazz predraft workout on Wednesday. He bent over, then laid down on his back until Jazz staffers were able to take him back for treatment.
It was a tough finish to Bates-Diop’s morning: The No. 18 ranked player on ESPN’s NBA Draft Big Board is the highest-rated prospect to come work out for the Jazz so far. For much of that workout, he played well — according to Jazz vice president of player personnel Walt Perrin — until cramps and back pain crept into his performance.
“I think that was one of the problems here, but we’re gonna give him some treatment,” Perrin said. “I think he’s gonna be fine.”
It’s not the only time this week the Jazz haven’t gotten exactly what they wanted out of a workout: On Tuesday, Utah couldn’t fly in Colorado standout George King, another top-100 player, due to bad weather and had to reschedule him for a later date. Since the Jazz are on a shortened schedule — the draft is earlier than last year, and the playoffs pushed workouts back further than usual — making the most of their hands-on time is crucial to doing the work for their No. 21 and 52 picks.
But even with a setback on Wednesday for the 6-foot-7 Bates-Diop, Perrin said, “other than that, I thought he had a pretty good workout.” With a 7-foot-3 wingspan, the forward has elite length and proven shooting ability that NBA teams will covet.
There are workouts which hinge on the health of one prime player, but Wednesday was not one of those: The Jazz also had Chimezie Metu, a 6-foot-11 center from USC who had at least 50 blocks each of his three seasons with the Trojans. He sits at No. 38 among ESPN’s ranked prospects.
While Perrin said both he and Bates-Diop need to develop their strength, the intriguing part of Metu is his potential on offense: He made 12 of his 40 attempted 3-pointers last year, and he’s worked on his long-range shot. If he shows enough to NBA teams that he can expand his offensive repertoire and defend well, he could creep into the first round.
“I’ve really gotten a lot more comfortable shooting it in rhythm, being comfortable knocking down NBA threes,” Metu said. “I think I’m just getting better, and hopefully down the line, I can get more consistent.”
Perrin said the best part of Metu’s game is defense: He can guard multiple positions, and has solid athleticism for his position. If he’s going to be a player who can protect the rim and hit from 3-point range, Perrin said that will likely “take time.”
There were two other top-100 prospects at Wednesday workout: Kentucky big man P.J. Washington and St. John’s guard Shamorie Ponds. Neither were available to speak to the media because they have not yet hired agents.
Matt Mobley, a senior guard from St. Bonaventure, was one of the best shooters in the workout, and while his NBA prospects are a long shot, he hoped he brought some maturity and workmanlike energy to the session — which was welcomed on a day when others struggled. He only had one college offer coming out of high school, so he knows what it is to fight against long odds.
“I have a winning mentality,” Mobley said. “I know what it takes to win. You gotta play tough defense, play tough. You gotta outsmart the opponent, outwork them.”