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Jackson Emery has earned an invitation to work out for the Utah Jazz on Tuesday, with BYU's alltime steals leader grabbing a spot in the Jazz' pre-draft workout schedule, along with three other players.
Emery will be part of a group including Michael Stockton (Westmister College), Brady Morningstar (Kansas) and Mustapha Farrakhan (Virginia).
I spoke with Emery on Monday evening, and he said he has known for about a week that he would be working out for the Jazz. Emery said his agent Ben Pensack "is in some talks with a couple of other teams--nothing finalized or anything set; right now, it's just the Jazz, but we're hoping that this one could jump-start a couple of others."
Of Pensack (who represents former Utah State players Spencer Nelson, Gary Wilkinson and Tai Wesley) Emery says "his job is to get me the opportunities; my job is to be ready for those opportunities."
Emery says the Jazz told his agent that he is being brought in "to see what he's capable of doing." The four players working out on Tuesday all played in the college backcourt; none of the four are projected NBA draft picks on June 23rd.
"All of us are kind of similar," says Emery. "Guards who can shoot the ball, hard-working players."
Acknowledging that the Jazz are not going to look his way on NBA Draft night (the Jazz do not currently own a second-round pick), Emery says "the most likely situation is (the Jazz) are just increasing their database, seeing what a couple of us can do and just keeping us on their radar." Emery is one of two local nods in the Tuesday workout, with the son of Jazz great John Stockton also in the mix.
To stay in shape and prepare for sessions like the one on Tuesday, Emery says he has been working out with Jimmer Fredette and Fredette's uncle Lee Taft, in addition to getting in games with the BYU players on campus.
"More than anything, just trying to keep my cardio up," Emery said. "Improving more so my basketball skills (as opposed to strength training)...having the ball in my hands, working on ball-handling and shooting--certain drills, those things are more important."
Emery believes regardless of the level of interest on draft night, NBA workouts can pay dividends down the line.
"One thing that really helps is it does boost your basketball resume--if you don't make the the NBA but negotiate with teams overseas, they can see you had workouts with the Jazz, and that shows these European teams that (NBA teams) are interested in what I can do, and they're thinking 'if he's invited by those teams, he must be pretty good.'"
The NBA's uncertain labor situation and pending lockout has led many would-be free agents to actively pursue playing opportunities in foreign professional leagues, and Emery is no exception.
"I understand that there's not going to be an NBA Summer League, so more than anything, I just need to prepare myself for overseas," says Emery. "The more I get better, the more opportunities are going to arise, whether next year it's with an NBA team, or if I do well in Europe and get a better contract the following year."
"The key is just to work hard and improve on your basketball skills, and be ready for those opportunities. A lot of times these NBA opportunities pop up randomly, and if you're not ready, that might be the only chance that you get to show yourself."
About the job possibilities in Europe, Emery says "I'm still leaning towards that; I know that if I have a really good workout with one of these (NBA) teams that possibly they'd give me another shot, but realistically without the summer league, it makes things a lot more complicated."
Things are a lot less complicated for Emery's college teammate Jimmer Fredette, whose first NBA team workout is Tuesday with the Indiana Pacers (15th pick, 1st round). Thursday, Fredette will workout with the New York Knicks (17th pick).
Emery says Fredette is "looking good; he's been on a diet, he's been working out harder, he looks slimmer...he still has his frame, still has his strength, he's just trimmed down a little bit."
"He looks good," says Emery. "His ball-handling is good; in one-on-one or two-on-two, he's trying a lot harder defensively--he's got a little edge to him with all of these doubts (about his defense). He's working extremely hard."
About Fredette's possible destination on draft night, Emery says "That's a really good question; there's so much speculation. I was thinking the Jazz had a really good shot (at taking Jimmer), but I honestly don't think the Jazz will pick him. It depends on who they go with on their third pick. If they go with Brandon Knight or Kemba Walker (at #3), then there's no way there going to go with him at 12."
What if the Jazz take a big man at #3; what about Jimmer to the Jazz? "He's got a really good chance at 12; I don't think (the Jazz will pick him), but you never know in this business," said Emery. "A lot will depend on these workouts, and how well he does."
Emery and Fredette are teaming up for their first-ever basketball camp, this upcoming Friday and Saturday at the XSI Factory facility at Thanksgiving Point.
Emery says Fredette "will be ready" for the camp, even with his busy NBA workout schedule. As of Monday night, only 14 spots remained open for the camp, with those spots expected to be filled by mid-week.