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SALT LAKE CITY — Former University of Virginia guard Ty Jerome has known Donovan Mitchell was different longer than just about anybody.
Long before Mitchell was winning the hearts of Jazz fans with high-flying dunks and cold-blooded shots, he was just a young kid playing with the New York Metropolitan AAU Sports Association.
A young kid, though, with very large shoes.
“Even when we were 8, 9 years old, he was always a freak athlete,” said Jerome, who played on the same AAU team as Mitchell growing up. “He could get up the court in like four dribbles at 8 years old. He was always a freak athlete. I remember we were 10, and he had a size 13 shoe. So he was always different athletically.”
So Jerome realized at a very young age that he had to learn how to play without some of those physical gifts.
Jerome, who was part of a six-player workout on Friday at the Zion's Bank Basketball Center, isn’t blessed with the same athleticism as his childhood friend. But that hasn’t stopped him from being on the verge of joining Mitchell in the NBA.
Jerome is a possible late first-round prospect; the Jazz choose at No. 23.
At 6 feet 5 inches tall, the point guard has great height for his position, but that’s pretty much where the elite physical attributes end. He’s heard all about how he’s not athletic, how he doesn’t look strong, how he’s not all that long. That all might be true — it also hasn’t mattered.
Jerome helped Virginia to a national championship leading an offensive attack that incorporated more and more screen-oriented plays — including some screen-handoff sets like the ones the Jazz often run.
Jerome is a tall, gifted passer and a good shooter, and Virginia emphasizing screens fit right in with his skill set.
He has a good feel for the game, can fit the ball into tight spaces, and is a 40 percent 3-point shooter. He’s also good at moving without the ball in his hands, using screens to get open for shots. So, it’s really no wonder he thrived in such a system, averaging 13.6 points and 5.5 assists last season as a junior.
“(His) basketball IQ is really high,” Jazz vice president of player personnel Walt Perrin said. “His passing ability is extremely high also.”
All that pick-and-roll practice didn’t just help the Cleveland Cavaliers on their way to a title, it should help Jerome as he transitions to the NBA — where pick-and-roll is king.
“It allowed me to get good practice even more on the pick-and-roll game, and I think that played to my strength,” Jerome said.
Those strengths are just different than Mitchell's.
Tennessee’s Admiral Schofield and former five-star recruit Brian Bowen II were the other two headliners of the group on Friday.
Schofield is a 6-6 bulky wing who said he wanted to show off his versatility — even stating that he thinks he could play a small-ball five for the Jazz.
“I want to be a junkyard dog, guard multiple positions, and knock down open shots,” Schofield said.
Schofield averaged 16.5 points and 6.1 rebounds last season as a senior and shot 38 percent from deep. He has mostly been projected as a second-round pick but could get a first-round look.
Bowen spent last season with the Sydney Kings of the NBL in Australia after getting caught up in the Adidas college basketball scandal coming out of high school. He was five-star recruit in the class of 2017 and had signed to play at the University of Louisville. In Australia, he averaged 6.3 points and 3.2 rebounds in 15.3 minutes.
Bowen worked out for the Jazz before last year’s draft, too, and Perrin liked the way he has improved.
“He’s grown as a player,” Perrin said,. “He understands more the pro game than he did coming out of high school. His body has gotten a little bit better. I think it helped him playing in Australia.”