Newest Jazz Rookie Rayjon Tucker Discusses Signing In Utah
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The Utah Jazz newest rookie Rayjon Tucker made his practice debut with the team after clearing his physical exam Thursday morning. The Jazz host the Portland Trailblazers in their first game after making a series of roster altering moves in hopes of improving their struggling bench.
On Monday, before playing against the Miami Heat, the Jazz traded former lottery pick Dante Exum to the Cleveland Cavaliers in exchange for shooting guard Jordan Clarkson. Then, after the 107-104 loss in Miami, the Jazz waived veteran forward Jeff Green after agreeing to a contract with Tucker, a G-League standout with the Wisconsin Herd.
Tucker, a 6’5 wing who last played college ball at Little Rock (AR) bypassed his fifth-year senior season to enter his name into the NBA draft. Tucker had committed to transferring to Memphis but instead chose to pursue his professional career.
After failing to get selected in June’s NBA draft, Tucker signed with the Herd where he averaged 23.9 points on 49 percent shooting from the floor and 38 percent from the three-point line on 5.5 attempts per game.
Tucker discussed the process of signing with the Jazz, and his relationship with Donovan Mitchell at shoot-around.
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“Found out Monday night that I was going to sign here, and flew out (Wednesday) night and got here about 10 o’clock,” Tucker said, “I actually had a workout here pre-draft, so I knew quite a little bit, and me and Donovan have known each other since high school.”
Tucker and Mitchell competed against one another in the American Family High School Dunk Contest in Indiana in 2015. Tucker came in second in the contest, while Mitchell came in third losing out to Heat forward Derrick Jones Jr.
“He jumps higher than me for sure,” Mitchell said of Tucker dunk contest performance, “We’ll have to definitely run it back.”
The Jazz third-year star warned that there was more to Tucker’s game than just his leaping ability.
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“He’s a physical defender,” Mitchell said, “But he can also do things on the offensive end. He can score, he can get to the rim, he can play above the rim. He’s a very cerebral player.”
Upon signing with the team, Tucker said he was left speechless about his opportunity with the Jazz.
“I was kind of in shock, I was amazed. I didn’t really know what to say,” Tucker said, “I instantly called my mom and let her know what was going on.”
Tucker mom took the news in three stages.
“The first time I call her she was relaxed,” Tucker said. After grabbing dinner, Tucker again called his mom again, “She was geeked up, just laughing and yelling.”
After a night’s sleep, Tucker again called his mom once the reality had set in, “That’s when the tears came, thats what I was waiting on the first time.”
The rookie will wear number six for the Jazz.
While the Jazz awaited the results from Clarkson’s physical exam, Mitchell discussed his relationship with Green and his reaction to the team’s roster moves.
“I had no idea after the game, so after it happened it was tough to see my guy go,” Mitchell said of Green. The two shared neighboring locker’s in the team’s locker room. “He’s a guy that we shot together, I talked to him a bunch, picked his brain, I really wish him the best.”
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According to Mitchell, there will be no hard feelings between Green and the Jazz organization.
“He wished us all the best of luck. There was no animosity, nothing against us or against him, we’re just ready to go and ready to play. He’s a really professional person.”
Green signed with the Jazz over the summer, and excelled through preseason bouncing between the starting lineup at the bench. Green averaged 12.6 points and shot 68 percent from the floor and 46 percent from the three-point line, but quickly saw his numbers plummet during the regular season.
The forward’s finished his Jazz career with regular-season averages of 7.8 points while shooting just 38 percent from the field and 33 percent from the three-point line.
Clarkson should be available for the Jazz against Portland.
“We all know what he can do on the offensive end being able to add another threat coming off the bench is really huge, really key,” Mitchell said of Clarkson, “It’s going to take a minute for him to get used to the terminology and the system and whatnot, but we’re really excited to have him.”
Clarkson will wear double zeros for the Jazz.
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