Once Ben Coombs heard that Grayson Allen was going to wear No. 24, he got to work.
From midnight to 2 a.m., the South Jordan resident worked on his lifelike rendering of the newest Jazzman, etched in marker and ink. On Thursday morning, he waited in line outside Vivint Smart Home Arena for the better part of an hour to pull the drawing out of a yellow folder and present to Allen himself — for an autograph, of course.
It was that segment of the Utah Jazz fan base that showed up for Allen’s first public event in Salt Lake City, an autograph and photo session outside the team store. They were, by and large, either Duke fans who had followed the 22-year-old guard’s career over the course of several seasons, or Jazz fans who have ironclad trust in the team’s draft process — or overlapped in both camps.
But even beyond the several hundred fans who appeared for Allen’s introduction, there’s a larger conversation taking place, and Jazz fans seem to be warming up to the No. 21 overall pick in last week’s draft.
“He’s growing on me,” said Coombs, moments after shaking one of Allen’s “ginormous” hands. “I think I was one of many that wasn’t particularly impressed when they initially drafted him. But the people I talk to are mostly cooling off as more comes across about him.”
There’s been a lot that’s come out about Allen, a four-year-player at Duke, in just the last week. General manager Dennis Lindsey marveled about his workouts in Salt Lake City and in California. Donovan Mitchell said Allen was one of his toughest competitors when he was at Louisville. Allen’s parents have been able to talk about their only son, and the softer feel of his off-court personality.
That — along with being able to see him alongside his new jersey — has led to evolving attitudes among the fans of Allen’s new franchise.
Taylor Miyasaki, a 15-year-old girl in Saratoga Springs, doesn’t need to be converted. She stood in line with her brother and uncle, proudly sporting Duke blue, and as Allen signed her jersey, her hands literally shook with excitement — a sensation that lasted several minutes afterward.
But the Miyasakis, big Blue Devils fans, said they had heard others around them start to come to their way of thinking.
“All the kids at her school, they used to hate Grayson,” 12-year-old Freeman Miyasaki explained. “Now they say he’s OK.”
A big factor in Allen’s acceptance could come next week, when Utah Summer League begins on Monday evening. The Jazz have touted Allen’s sharp shooting and his athletic ability, and fans will be able to see for themselves. The competition will also include lottery picks Jaren Jackson Jr., Trae Young as well as picks Kevin Huerter and Lonnie Walker who were selected just before Allen.
Still, some are already buying in. Allen’s jersey went on sale for the first time Thursday, and Jazz team store manager Morgan Evans said business was decent for a new draft pick. The store printed about two dozen No. 24 jerseys before opening for the event, and kept printing as people waited in line. There were still some left, but plenty had been sold.
Count Tommy Safaee as one of the early investors. The 25-year-old Holladay resident has several player jerseys, including a Donovan Mitchell edition he bought during last year’s Utah Summer League. But even he had to admit: He’s never bought one this early for any other player.
“He’s someone I’ve admired a lot, and I think he’s going to bring the same intensity he had at Duke here,” Safaee said. “When people see what kind of player he is, they’re going to feel that way, too.”