I’m from Montana, so similar geographical areas. I’ve been to Salt Lake a lot of times. It would be a dream come true to play anywhere, but Salt Lake would be great. —Josh Huestis
SALT LAKE CITY — If the Utah Jazz want to win over a Los Angeles Lakers fan, they have an excellent opportunity to do just that come June 26.
What will it take?
Just draft Stanford forward Josh Huestis, that’s it.
Huestis, one of six NBA hopefuls to participate in the Jazz’s pre-draft workout Thursday, laughed while saying that might help convince his Salt Lake City-based uncle to cheer for the local team instead of Kobe’s crew.
Huestis and his close relative, Quincey Hodges, chatted about that while spending time together the night prior to the 6-foot-7 athlete’s NBA audition.
“He’s known as the ‘Jazz Hater.’ I guess he wears a Lakers jersey. He’s just a big Lakers fan,” Huestis said, smiling. “He moved up here just a couple of years ago. I think if I ended up here, he would convert.”
The two-time Pac-12 All-Defensive Team selection is hoping his tenacity on defense and his ever-improving offensive game will help turn that scenario into a reality.
“I’m from Montana, so similar geographical areas. I’ve been to Salt Lake a lot of times,” Huestis said. “It would be a dream come true to play anywhere, but Salt Lake would be great.”
The Stanford product also talked about his friendship with fellow Cardinal and former Jazzman Adam Keefe, although his conversation with Utah brass included his desire to be a defensive standout in the NBA.
“Teams are expecting me to come in and be a defender. That’s what I’m known for: defense,” he said. “I’m going to be a hustle guy, a hard-worker. I have a good motor.”
At the same time, Huestis, who averaged 11.2 points and 8.2 rebounds at Stanford his senior season, hopes to show that he can also be a threat offensively with some 3-point range and ball-handling skills. That’s taken a while to hone — and still needs work — seeing as he was a center when he played high school hoops in Great Falls.
Walt Perrin, the Jazz’s vice president of player personnel and team spokesman at pre-draft workouts, said Huestis could be “a pretty good defender.” It would only help the cause of Huestis, a 31.9 percent 3-point shooter in college, if he continued to work on that outside shot to help stretch opposing defenses.
“It’s night and day. Before I got to college, I never stepped outside the paint,” Huestis said. “(It’s a) long transition to the three. It’s coming along really well.”
Perrin was complimentary of Huestis and Thursday’s athletic group, which also included Oakland guard Travis Bader (the NCAA record-holder for 3-point shooting), Cal guard Justin Cobbs, Oklahoma forward Cameron Clark, Seton Hall swingman Fuquan Edwin and Memphis guard Joe Jackson.
“I thought they went through the workouts real well,” Perrin said. “We’ve got some guys in this group that I think can have an opportunity to play at the next level. Maybe not the NBA, maybe so. Who knows? Maybe a couple of years. But pretty good players.”
The Jazz began their info-gathering workout series Wednesday with six other recent college seniors. Utah management will head to Chicago next week for the NBA Draft Combine and will then resume hosting a slew of tryouts over the next month and a half.
“It gives us a better feel of who they are. It gives us a better feel for what they can do on the court in terms of what we look at for NBA basketball players,” Perrin said. "It gives us an idea on how tough they are in terms of trying to work through a workout here in Salt Lake with the altitude and the problems of getting air.”
Perrin said Jazz brass also like getting an opportunity to interview the players to see how they interact with Utah personnel. The team’s scouts, he added, did an enormous amount of background checks in October and November, when they talked to coaches, team employees, academic personnel, etc., to get a good feel about what the potential prospects are really like.
It’s all part of the expanded process instituted by Dennis Lindsey two years ago when he took over as general manager.
The workouts are just one piece of the puzzle.
“We’ve learned quite a few things. Does it change our idea of who they are as players? Sometimes no. Most times no, because we see a lot of them live. We see a lot of them on tape,” Perrin said. “This just adds or enhances all we need to know about them.”