In front of Sloan, Jazz hopefuls keep it simple

May 8 2014 - 8:23pm

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It didn't matter to Travis Bader that the Utah Jazz don't currently have a head coach. One of the old ones was good enough for him.

In the moments after his pre-draft workout with the Jazz on Thursday, the Oakland (Mich.) senior guard made a point to track down Hall of Famer Jerry Sloan, once Utah's coach and now a consultant.

Sloan was on hand to watch the day's activities, which were overseen by player development coaches Alex Jensen and Johnnie Bryant as well as general manager Dennis Lindsey and player personnel director Walt Perrin.

Utah's pre-draft workouts are closed to the public as well as media but seconds after they ended and the doors were opened, Sloan was seen making his way onto one of the practice courts to say hello to the players.

Bader made a beeline for him.

"It's exciting, you see him in the stands and he's watching you play and obviously you want to do your best," the 6-foot-5 guard explained. "I just really wanted to go up there and introduce myself. Obviously, he's a legendary coach. Just to be in his presence is something special."

Sloan, who didn't particularly enjoy chatting with reporters during his days as head coach, didn't hang around to take questions Thursday afternoon.

But he has long enjoyed the process of scouting pre-draft workouts, often commenting that he liked observing how the players competed with each other. Although he didn't really have anything against the highest-rated draft prospects, he had an affinity for the late-round hopefuls who perhaps seemed a little hungrier than the megawatt stars.

The six young men working out Thursday appeared to be just such scrappers.

While it's true the Jazz will have a pick near the top of this summer's draft, neither Bader, Justin Cobbs (guard, California), Joe Jackson (guard, Memphis), Fuquan Edwin (guard/forward, Seton Hall), Cameron Clark (forward, Oklahoma) or Josh Huestis (forward, Stanford) are considered top five prospects.

On the other hand, the Jazz also currently have a pick later in the first round and another in the second, and those guys need love, too.

"Teams are expecting me to come in and be a defender because I'm known for defense," Huestis said. "I can be a hustle guy, a hard worker. I have a good motor."

Before coming in for his workout with the Jazz, Huestis spoke with a few ex-Stanford players with NBA experience. He said they told him defense is key.

Because Huestis is already known as a defensive specialist, he was told to stick with his strongest feature.

No use trying to get cute in a pre-draft workout.

"What gets you on the court, especially someone in my position, is defense first," he said. "No teams are looking for superstars to come in and score for them, they've got that already. I just want to be somebody that can come in, make an impact right away (and) help the team win."

No surprise, that seemed to be a theme among Thursday's participants.

"They want to see that I can play defense against quicker guys, point guards, against bigger guys," Bader said. "Just proving I can play defense, showing a little bit off the dribble. Not necessarily a bunch of crossovers and stuff but maybe a shot-fake or two. A one-dribble pull-up, a two-dribble pull-up and just really knock down shots."

Wisely, Bader's plan was simply to keep it simple. Defense first, good shooting second and more defense in case the shots didn't fall.

In other words, nothing cute, nothing fancy.

Sloan probably loved him.

Jim Burton is the Standard-Examiner's sports columnist. He can be reached at 801-625-4265 or at jburton@standard.net. Follow him on Twitter @StandardExJimbo

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