Utah Jazz draft picks are ready to go into ‘grind mode’

While Taylor Hendricks, Keyonte George, and Brice Sensabaugh were feeling good about getting introduced to the organization, they’re also eager to take the next steps in their NBA journey.

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Taylor Hendricks, the No. 9 Utah Jazz NBA draft pick, poses for photos with his mother Danielle Hendricks and his jersey at the Utah Jazz Basketball Center, June 26, 2023.

Questions of roles and rotations, critiques of passing-vs.-shooting ratios and missed defensive assignments, and discussions of expectations (their own and the ones put upon them) will come at some point for Utah Jazz rookies Taylor Hendricks, Keyonte George, and Brice Sensabaugh.

But those are issues for another day, somewhere down the road.

Monday afternoon at Zions Bank Basketball Campus — where the trio of recent first-round draft picks were introduced to team personnel, then media — was just the latest step in the culmination of the dream.

They are in the NBA, part of a team that saw potential in them. It’s all good vibes and boundless optimism for now.

As it should be.

“Everybody’s been very welcoming. Even on my flight to Utah, I’ve been taking pictures with people,” said Hendricks, the No. 9 pick in last Thursday’s NBA draft.

“Man, it’s a good environment in Utah, there’s beautiful people in this organization,” added George, the 16th selection.

Sensabaugh, who was selected at No. 28, acknowledged the wave of emotion that came after all the work he put in, all the cities he visited, and all the uncertainty about his future that lingered right up until the moment that commissioner Adam Silver announced his name at the podium in Brooklyn.

“It was definitely a good feeling, it was a lot of relief,” he said. “Especially going into an organization that is a good one, where I’ll be valued.”

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Brice Sensabaugh, the No. 28 Utah Jazz NBA draft pick, holds his Jazz jersey for the first time at the Utah Jazz Basketball Center, June 26, 2023.

Now it becomes about them getting to know the organization better, and vice versa.

Dinner with head coach Will Hardy will come in a few days. In the meantime, there have been phone calls and texts from the likes of Collin Sexton, Walker Kessler, Kelly Olynyk, Ochai Agbaji, and Kris Dunn, and running into the likes of Agbaji and Luka Samanic in the gym.

Hendricks was particularly enthused about his text from Sexton, calling him, “One of those players I always watched” on account of how “he’s a dawg” with his on-court mentality.

They recounted the paths they’ve taken to get here, and expressed optimism about what comes next.

George noted that the predraft process was a difficult one, with his stock seemingly rising or falling every week as teams and analysts picked apart his game, loving the creativity and ability to generate open looks, while worrying about the efficiency and lack of athleticism.

The Baylor product already has put in a ton of work sculpting his body — something that general manager Justin Zanik pointed to in the aftermath of the draft. George noted that he was “blessed to have people in my circle that are willing to tell me the right things,” adding that their admonition enabled him to “get in elite-level shape.”

Discovering that the Jazz had him rated as a top-10 prospect made him “feel wanted,” and when that happens, he added, “You buy in, there’ll be 10 toes in.” Not that there was any doubt in his mind that he’d do that, considering his desire to pay his family back for the investment they’ve made in him.

“My family is what keeps me in grind mode,” George said, “I want to give back to them — that’s one of my main goals. … I’ve got a lot of people that I’m putting on for.”

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Keyonte George, the No. 16 Utah Jazz NBA draft pick, addresses members of the media at the Utah Jazz Basketball Center, June 26, 2023.

Hendricks, meanwhile, shed some light on the minor injury that Zanik said prevented the Central Florida forward from participating in an official workout for the team, saying that he had tweaked his hamstring but was now feeling great, and had actually just completed a workout on the ZBBC courts before coming to speak to the media, and that there was “no pain at all.”

He said he’d love to play in Summer League, but will defer to the team’s medical staff.

Whenever he gets to playing officially, he is eager to show that he can be a versatile and well-rounded player.

“I would say Bam Adebayo or Jaren Jackson Jr.,” Hendricks replied when asked which players he watches and wants to emulate. “Those type of guys that do a little bit of everything — defend, block shots, guard pick-and-rolls, and stretch the floor.”

Sensabaugh described himself as a self-motivated person, and recounted that when his first conversation with people in the organization involved them telling them they wanted him to get to work right away, he was in total agreement.

“I’m definitely gonna work. I want to maximize my potential; I don’t want to settle for less than what I’m capable of,” the Ohio State wing said. “… [Struggling to earn success] has been a reoccurring theme for me in my life. One thing that’s guaranteed is I’m not settling.”

Even as the rookies step into a new world where just about everything is unfamiliar to them, there is some solace, at least, in knowing one another, to varying degrees.

Hendricks and Sensabaugh played both with one another (in AAU) and against one another (in high school in Florida).

“I was thinking, ‘Man, Brice hasn’t come off the board yet — I might be able to play with him,’” Hendricks recalled thinking at Thursday night’s draft. “And then they picked him, and I was ecstatic. Just to team up with him again, and the type of guy that he is, and the player that he is, I was pretty happy.”

Sensabaugh and George are both repped by the Wasserman Agency, and so, they spent much of the predraft process working out together in Los Angeles.

“He’s a humble guy, goofy, he carries himself the right way, a family guy — all the right characteristics that you want,” George said of Sensabaugh, before dropping some friendly trash talk. “We’ve been at it a few times in between the lines, but he ain’t gonna tell you how that went.”

And George and Hendricks have crossed paths here and there just because of “basketball work,” as the guard put it.

“It’s great going through this transition with two other guys. I’m blessed to do it with them,” George said. “A lot of people, they get to do it by themselves, but now I’ve got people to do it with, people by my side that are going through the same thing.”