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SALT LAKE CITY — Elijah Bryant wants to make every day count.
After hiring an agent and declaring for the NBA draft, there were some who doubted his decision to forgo his senior season at BYU. Some pointed out Bryant is unlikely to hear his name called when the 2018 NBA Draft rolls around on June 21; his name isn't on ESPN's list of top 100 prospects, for example.
But for Bryant, the time seemed right to chase his dream.
"I sat down after the season and talked to coach (BYU head coach Dave Rose) and really wanted to feel out everything," Bryant said. "After talking to coach for the last time, I kind of wanted to go with my gut feeling after praying and really thinking about it."
Bryant's age played a role in his decision to go pro. He turned 23 in April, older than most NBA prospects, even four-year seniors. He'll be able to graduate after this semester. And his good shooting season at BYU helped — he hit 41.5 percent of his 3-point shots on nearly six attempts per game. With that kind of percentage, it's easy to project a role for him in professional basketball.
"The biggest thing I offer a team right now is shooting," Bryant said. "I'll do anything for the team: talking, communicating, diving on the floor. So being a 3-and-D guy, and then it's about being able to develop a pick-and-roll game."
That's some of what he's taken the time to work on since going pro. Bryant has been practicing at Impact Basketball, an elite training facility in Las Vegas, working with trainers on the strengths and weaknesses of his game. So far, he's taken breaks to go to Milwaukee on Wednesday and Salt Lake City on Saturday to show off his skills, but plans to head straight back to Vegas this weekend once his workout is complete. Then, he has another audition scheduled with the Boston Celtics later this month.
So while he apologizes to BYU for leaving, calling them his "family," he's looking forward to what he can accomplish.
"BYU fans obviously wanted me to stay, but they understand," Bryant said. "I'll graduate, and then be able to chase my dream. A lot of people have been very supportive of me chasing my dream."
Bryant was one of six players that the Jazz worked out on Saturday, perhaps the least well-known nationally of the bunch. Leading the workout was Donte DiVincenzo, who is ranked No. 33 on ESPN's list of top 100 prospects. DiVincenzo was also awarded the 2018 NCAA Final Four Most Outstanding Player trophy after scoring 31 points in the national championship game.
But DiVincenzo wasn't the only player at the workout likely to be drafted. Devon Hall, the senior guard from Virginia, is ranked No. 48 on ESPN's top 100 prospects. And Brian Bowen, forced to sit out a year after being involved with Louisville's bribery scandal, is ranked No. 97. Wenyen Gabriel, a 6-9 big from Kentucky, and Jalen McDaniels, a 6-10 forward from San Diego State, round out the list.
DiVincenzo, Bowen, Gabriel and McDaniels weren't available to talk to the media because they are Early Entry candidates for the draft, and have yet to hire an agent. They could still decide to return to school, and to avoid putting themselves in a situation where they may have to comment on leaving or staying, they opt not to be interviewed.
But Bryant and Hall have hired agents and will be staying in the draft. Hall was impressive in the interview, showing the kind of communication skills that are among his best traits as an NBA prospect. That's not all Hall has to offer, though: he developed into an excellent catch-and-shoot player at Virginia over the course of his four years, ending the season in the 95th percentile among college players at that skill, according to Synergy Sports.
Hall also impressed in his time at the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament, using his 6-foot-5 height and 6-foot-9 wingspan to make an impact on the defensive end of the floor.
Given the success of heady senior players in recent drafts, Hall could be making a move up in the draft. Josh Hart, Frank Mason, Sindarius Thornwell, and even 2017 Rookie of the Year Malcolm Brogdon (also from Virginia) have shown that you can find contributing players late in the draft if they have the right mindset to play in the NBA, even if they have played four years of college.