Enes Kanter and Alec Burks flew into Salt Lake City on Friday eager to begin their careers as the newest members of the Utah Jazz.
Jazz President Randy Rigby introduced Kanter and Burks to the local media at a press conference that afternoon.
“Yesterday was a great day for the Utah Jazz,” Rigby said. “We’re excited that we were able to add two very important components to the future of the Utah Jazz.”
Kanter and Burks are both 19 and will add additional youth to the Jazz roster, which now features four players who are 21 or younger. Kanter will wear No. 0, and Burks will wear No. 10.
Next season marks the first time head coach Tyrone Corbin will have the opportunity to transition rookies to the professional level.
“Well, I think it’s a great marriage … We’re all coming into this thing new together, but the expectations are high,” Corbin said. “We understand that we are probably going to be younger than most teams in a lot of areas, but we’re going to be prepared, we’re going to be in shape and we’re going to be ready to go. ”
Kanter and Burks said they are excited to be a part of the Jazz organization moving forward and are looking to make contributions on the court. Kanter was declared ineligible to play last season with the University of Kentucky due to financial benefits received from a professional basketball team in Turkey but is excited to play this season.
“It was tough because I came here [to America] to play college basketball … I came here for education too,” Kanter said. “It was a little bit frustrating because I couldn’t help my team, I couldn’t help my coach, I couldn’t help my university. Right now I’m so happy. I know the Utah Jazz are the right team for me.”
Kanter is a basketball player first, but said he would consider becoming a wrestler after his basketball career. His nickname at the University of Kentucky was the “UnderKanter,” modeled after his favorite professional wrestler the Undertaker.
Burks grew up outside of Kansas City and wasn’t highly recruited during his senior year of high school. Critics argue he struggles behind the arc, but Burks hit some important 3-pointers while at Colorado.
“Coming from Kansas City, Mo., I was under-recruited by everybody. It just made the chip on my shoulder even bigger,” Burks said. “I think that chip on my shoulder just added to the confidence on the court.”
Both Kanter and Burks have fulfilled lifetime dreams by reaching the NBA. Many consider the 2011 Utah Jazz draft to be a success, but the future will only tell.
Jazz management and fans alike are looking for a rebound year, after a dismal second half of the season last year. Utah started the first half of the season with a 27-14 record but lost 29 of its final 41 games and ultimately missed the playoffs.
“It’s an exciting time for the Utah Jazz franchise, looking at it historically,” Jazz CEO Greg Miller said. “We have a young team that we’re working hard to grow and develop into a great young team that will one day win an NBA Championship.”