TAYLORSVILLE — Every time Jackson Vroman steps on the basketball court at SLCC's Lifetime Activities Center, his audition continues.

Though he doesn't have to deal with singing, obnoxious comments from Simon and Paula and/or impressing speed-dialing teenage girls watching the tube at home, the Rocky Mountain Revue is his basketball career's version of American Idol.

Vroman, a Utah product who's playing with the Dallas Mavericks, even has his own "Soul Patrol." The former Viewmont High and Snow College standout has had about 40-50 friends and family members show up to watch each of his performances in the annual summer league.

The 6-foot-10 post player is just hoping the critics who count — the NBA coaches and scouts — like his stuff enough to let him move on to the next round. He'd much prefer not to deal with the European Idol scene.

"I'm playing with these guys (Mavs), trying to make the team. But basically when you're trying out for one team, you're trying out for all the other teams that are there, too," he said after practice Wednesday. "Even teams that aren't here at the Revue have staff here watching. It's pretty much a mass tryout."

So far — in "AI" terms — Vroman hasn't exactly been Taylor Hicks, but he hasn't been William Hung, either.

His shining moments came in Dallas' first victory, when he made some key plays — collecting a steal, a free throw and taking a charge — at the end of regulation to help force overtime. In four Revue games, he's averaged 7.0 points, 3.5 rebounds, one steal and .75 blocks.

Vroman's getting a shot to prove his worth. He's logged more playing time (82 minutes) than anybody else on the Dallas roster.

His biggest non-shining moment came against San Antonio on Monday. With seven seconds left, he was whistled for a technical foul by a referee. He said all he told her was, "That's so bad" and that she didn't appreciate the "eye contact" he supposedly gave her.

"I was frustrated," he said. "Maybe I shouldn't have said anything."

Other than that, he said he's having fun playing this close to home.

"All in all, it's going well," said Vroman, who recently turned 25 years old. "I'm doing some things well and still need to work on other things. There are positives and negatives."

Vroman, who played on a Miami Heat summer-league team earlier this offseason, hopes his strengths will be noticed — and wanted — by the defending Western Conference champions.

"They play defense and run the ball — those are two of my strengths," he said. "So, I'd really like to be able to get on there."

Vroman said the Mavericks hadn't yet given him any personal pointers — coaches have been emphasizing things like rebounding to the whole team — but he is trying to improve his jump shot and build strength after being sidelined for four months this year due to a broken wrist.

"I can only do what I can do," he said. "I don't know who else they're looking at or exactly what they're looking for, so I'm just trying to play my game to the best of my abilities and hopefully they'll go for me."

After only playing his senior season at Viewmont High — he bounced from school to school for various reasons after moving here from Alaska in junior high — Vroman blossomed at Snow College and Iowa State. He finished with the Cyclones' second all-time-best career field-goal percentage (.558) and was the Big 12's leading rebounder as a senior.

From there, Vroman followed the footsteps of his father — former Utah Jazz player Brett Vroman — to the NBA. He was snatched up as the second pick of the second round in the 2004 draft, going 31st overall to the Chicago Bulls before landing in Phoenix after a draft-day trade. The Suns had been impressed enough by his pre-draft workouts — he averaged 19.3 points and 8.3 rebounds at the Portsmouth Invitational — that they considered taking him in the middle of the first round.

Vroman's stay in Arizona was short-lived. He only played in 10 games with Phoenix — including one start — before the Suns shipped him, Casey Jacobson and Maciej Lampe to New Orleans for Jim Jackson and a second-round pick.

He played in 41 games last season with the Hornets until his season — and wrist — suffered a crash landing against the Utah Jazz. After a two-handed dunk on Feb. 22, Vroman fell to the floor with both arms behind his back. He tried to cushion the blow with his hands, but his right wrist shattered. The injury ended his season — he was later cut by the Hornets — and left him with two metal plates, nine screws and a large scar in his wrist.

Vroman's just getting back to regaining his health and pumping iron now.

"I had to take four months off," he said. "It hurt me and slowed me down."

Even if he had not been injured, Vroman isn't sure he would have ended up staying in New Orleans/Oklahoma City, where he averaged 5.4 ppg his first half-season and 1.8 ppg this past half-season.

"I don't know if that was the right fit for me," he said. "Right now I'm just looking for a job. I wouldn't be disappointed anywhere."

Until then, though, his audition continues.


Today's games

Philadelphia vs. Seattle, 3 p.m.

Dallas vs. San Antonio, 5 p.m.

Atlanta vs. Utah, 7 p.m.


Vroman file

Name: Jackson Vroman

Age: 25

Height: 6-10

Weight: 220

Hometown: Bountiful

High school: Viewmont

Colleges: Snow College/Iowa State

NBA: Phoenix; New Orleans/Oklahoma

NOTES: Nickname is Jax . . . Drafted by Chicago Bulls in second round (31st pick) of 2004 NBA Draft before being traded to Phoenix Suns . . . Has career highs of 17 points (vs. San Antonio, March 14, 2005) and 13 rebounds (vs. Charlotte, March 2, 2005) . . . Averaged 3.3 ppg, 3.0 rpg in 87-game NBA career . . . Finished second all-time in Iowa State school history in career field-goal percentage (.558) and ninth all-time in blocked shots (70) . . . His father, Brett Vroman, played for Utah Jazz as a center in 1980-81.

Source: NBA.com


E-mail: jody@desnews.com