Travis Knight admits he'll "be glued to the TV" watching the NBA Draft Wednesday - and waiting for the phone to ring.
The former Alta High standout, who went on to excel at the University of Connecticut, returned to Utah Sunday to await his basketball future."I'm excited about it. It's a real win-win situation. I'll be happy with the chance," the 7-foot, 235-pound pivotman said from his family home in Sandy. "I'd like to get it over with and just breathe a sigh of relief."
Knight, who averaged 9.1 points and 9.3 rebounds in leading the Huskies to the Big East Conference championship, headlines a cast of NBA hopefuls with Utah ties.
"Knight's probably the local player that will do best," said Utah Jazz director of basketball operations Scott Layden. "He should go late in the first round or early in the second. He had a terrific career at Connecticut, has great size and did a nice job in the postseason tournaments."
The only other player with Utah ties that Layden expects to be drafted is Kevin Simpson of Dixie College.
Layden believes Utah's Brandon Jessie and Kenneth Roberts of BYU are on "the second-round bubble," with former Skyline High star JaRon Boone of Nebraska not far behind.
Here's a look at the potential draftees:
Likely to be drafted
TRAVIS KNIGHT, Connecticut/Alta High: A talented shooter and rebounder, Knight has no regrets about attending UConn - where he finished as the second-best shot blocker in school history.
"The style of play in the Big East has prepared me," he said. "I'm ready and excited to go."
He averaged 11.7 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.3 blocks at the pre-draft Desert Classic.
In high school, Knight was named the state's Most Valuable Player by the Deseret News. He averaged 15 points and 10.6 rebounds as a senior in leading Alta to the 1992 4A state championship.
"I think he'll go in the first round," said Alta coach Ron Carling, who has been contacted by several NBA teams concerning Knight. "I'm pulling for him. I hope he makes it. He's a great kid."
KEVIN SIMPSON, Dixie College: The Scenic West Athletic Conference player of the year, a 6-foot-4, 195-pound guard, opted (because of academic difficulties) to turn pro this spring after committing to Providence College in November. The native of Baltimore averaged 25.2 points for the Rebels as a sophomore, scoring 30 or more points 10 times. In high school he was a Parade All-American and led his team to a No. 2 national ranking.
"Simpson will be a second-rounder," said Layden. "He turned some heads in Chicago (pre-draft camp) and is a prolific scorer."
Dixie coach Dave Rose fielded calls from "at least 15 to 18 NBA teams" after Simpson's impressive showing in Illinois.
"He's a great kid and a good talent. He's definitely a scorer," he said. "His best basketball is still ahead of him, that's for sure."
On the bubble
KENNETH ROBERTS, BYU/Bingham High: Listed as 6-8, Roberts, a Deseret News Mr. Basketball honoree in high school, is really closer to 6-6. He was forced to play primarily center for the Cougars, but will be a forward in the pros. Averaged a team-high 19.8 points and pulled down 7.1 boards per game as a senior. The younger brother of NBA veteran Fred Roberts shot 55 percent from the floor and 80 percent from the line.
"I'm sure he's played plenty of one-on-one games with his brother, which gives him an advantage because Fred knows what it takes to play in the NBA," said Layden. "He is fundamentally sound, which is a tribute to Roger Reid and the coaching staff at BYU."
BRANDON JESSIE, Utah: The two-time first-team All-WAC player for the Utes averaged 16.1 points per game as a junior and 14.3 as a senior. Some scouts were disappointed with the 6-4 guard/forward's conditioning and postseason workouts.
"It will be tough for (Jessie) because it's difficult to make an NBA team as a big guard or small forward. There is so much competition and so many great athletes in those positions," said Layden. "Jessie certainly benefited by playing at Utah because he helped a great program win and made great progress."
JARON BOONE, Nebraska/Skyline High: Followed a promising junior season, in which he averaged 17.5 points for the Cornhuskers, with a disappointing senior campaign. Scored just 13.8 points per outing and had problems with coach Danny Nee before playing a major role in Nebraska's run to the NIT title.
"I think if anything (JaRon) may have a chance of getting drafted in the second round," said his father, professional basketball ironman Ron Boone. "If there is anything a college player would like to have it is that shot."
Chicago, Denver and Philadelphia have expressed interest in JaRon, though it is unclear whether or not he'll be drafted.
"If it happens, I think he is prepared," Boone added. "But, it's still awfully difficult."
And father knows best. Ron played 13 years in the professional ranks despite being an 11th-round NBA and eighth-round ABA pick. JaRon may benefit greatly from the flexibility associated with free agency - a.k.a. not getting drafted.
JIMMY DEGRAFFENRIED, Weber State/Payson High: The Big Sky co-MVP, who averaged a league-high 21.2 points, is one of just two conference players included in the NBA's list of draft prospects. He is, however, close to finalizing a deal to play in Greece.
ERIC FRANSON, Utah State/American Fork High: Averaged 16.2 points and 8.5 rebounds as a senior after earning Big West Player of the Year honors as a junior. Center stands 6-8 and weighs 240.
SILAS MILLS, Utah State/Salt Lake C.C.: Led the Aggies in scoring with 16.7 per game. The 6-foot-6 forward also averaged 7.9 rebounds and 3.4 assists. Helped SLCC place fifth in National Junior College tournament.
RANDY REID, BYU/Spanish Fork High: Four-year starting guard for the Cougars was among the 128 players to make the NBA's list of draft prospects. The 6-2, 160-pounder averaged 11.2 points and 5.1 assists as a senior.