Jazz Host RSL In Rare Practice Crossover

Jan 30, 2023, 2:43 PM | Updated: Jan 31, 2023, 2:28 pm

SALT LAKE CITY – The Utah Jazz had a rare opportunity at practice on Monday to welcome members of Real Salt Lake to the Zions Bank Basketball Campus.

The Jazz are in the midst of three days off between games and were able to host RSL after their Major League Soccer counterparts did the same in September.

“It’s always cool crossing sports like how we did that earlier in the season,” Jazz rookie Ochai Agbaji said of the opportunity. “Playing soccer, I know the respect that I have for soccer players and what they do and vice versa.”

RSL manager Pablo Mastroeni said the meeting in September was a chance for his team to break up the monotony of the MLS schedule.

With the All-Star break just weeks away, and the NBA trade deadline fast approaching, hosting RSL was a chance for Jazz players to do the same and get back to some of their athletic roots.

Before committing to basketball full-time as a sophomore in high school, Agbaji grew up as a multi-sport athlete, also competing on the soccer field.

“It was kind of like to the same extent as AAU basketball — I was traveling with my soccer club,” Agbaji said. “We would have a league and we play some games. We might go we travel out of town, play some games for the league and then come back home. So it’s that kind of travel, really serious high-level competitions.”

While Agbaji said he and Jazz teammate Leandro Bolmaro were probably the best soccer players on the Jazz roster, Lauri Markkanen may have a compelling case.

Markkanen also grew up playing soccer and has an older brother who plays professionally for HIFK Fotboll in Finland, and had a stint with Real Madrid in 2014. Despite his soccer affiliations, Markkanen said he had his eye on becoming a hockey goalie before a bad experience with the sport turned his attention to basketball.

“I did go to one practice when I was like five and told my mom it took too long to put the gear on,” Markkanen remembered. “And that was it.”

RSL Players Enjoy Practice With Jazz

Though the Jazz have just 30 games remaining in their 82-game schedule, the opportunity to practice at the ZBBC serves as a team bonding exercise for the RSL as they launch their 2023 campaign,

“It’s always great to see other athletes perform, seeing what these guys do, seeing how their practice is compared to us,” RSL midfielder Jasper Löffelsend said. “Obviously, those guys have way more games than we do so their training is a little bit more about getting your touches and getting your routine and our training is more about explosiveness, maybe a little bit harder, maybe a little bit more running. So let’s that’s quite fun to see.”

At practice, the RSL players got to go through some of the Jazz’s regular drills before watching the team scrimmage. That allowed some from RSL to reveal their hidden basketball talents, and exposed others.

“You think you’re good, and then you watch what they’re doing and you’re like, ‘I get it, I get it,'” Defender Justen Glad said. “They’re a lot better, but I mean, it’s incredible even just talking to these guys, talking to the coach and building that community.”

RSL will open its regular season schedule on Saturday, February 25 at Vancouver Whitecaps FC. The Jazz meanwhile are back in action Wednesday at home against the Toronto Raptors.

Ben Anderson is the Utah Jazz insider for KSL Sports and the co-host of Jake and Ben from 10-12p with Jake Scott on 97.5 The KSL Sports Zone. Find Ben on Twitter at @BensHoops or on Instagram @BensHoops.

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Jazz Host RSL In Rare Practice Crossover