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New Jazzman Ahearn riding wave of emotions

Houston Rockets\' Blake Ahearn (18) drives past Denver Nuggets\' Romel Beck during an NBA summer league basketball game in Las Vegas on Wednesday, July 14, 2010.\r\n
Houston Rockets\' Blake Ahearn (18) drives past Denver Nuggets\' Romel Beck during an NBA summer league basketball game in Las Vegas on Wednesday, July 14, 2010.\r\n
Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY — It's been an emotional roller-coaster for Blake Ahearn the past couple of weeks.

In late March, his wife gave birth to a baby daughter that was born prematurely and weighed barely four pounds. It's been tough for Ahearn going back and forth to the hospital, while continuing to play for the Reno Bighorns in the NBA Development League.

On Monday, he got some positive news with a call informing him that he was being signed by the Utah Jazz on a 10-day contract, perhaps for the rest of the season. Ahearn flew into Salt Lake City early Tuesday morning and was suited up and ready to practice, the first one on the floor, wearing a No. 2 Jazz jersey.

"I'm excited — for guys like me, these calls never get old," said Ahearn, who's had brief NBA stints with Miami and San Antonio. "It's been a lot of emotions for me the past couple of weeks. (My daughter) is still in the ICU, but doing better, so I've got a lot to play for."

Ahearn had mixed emotions about leaving his wife and daughter, but said, "My wife played high school and college, so when I got the call, she was the first one to kick me out the door. She's very supportive."

In Ahearn, the Jazz get a "skill" player who is known for his shooting and passing ability. He led the D-League in scoring at 23.8 ppg and may be the best free-throw shooter in the history of the world.

This year, he's made 227-of-236 foul shots (96.2 percent) and at Missouri State he set an NCAA career record by making 94.6 percent of his free throws, including one season when he made 97.5 percent.

"He's a combination guard, probably more of a point, but a really good shooter," said Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin. "We'll try to get him up to speed as soon as we can, to run the plays and simplify some things. But there's an opportunity for him to get some time because we're short-handed."

INJURY CENTRAL: Corbin just laughed when asked about his plans for juggling minutes for his players with three games in the next four nights.

"We're so short-handed," he said, as he ticked off the various injured players. "We have an idea, if things go perfectly, we can keep guys around 30 minutes. But you know what, with us being short-handed and the urgency to win ball games, it's difficult to have a plan and go strictly by that."

Raja Bell and Josh Howard have both been out a few weeks and are still rehabbing. Earl Watson and C.J. Miles were both injured Sunday night at San Antonio, with Watson's knee requiring surgery. Then in Monday night's game, reserve forward Jeremy Evans injured his foot and was wearing a "boot" after the game, according to Corbin.

That leaves the Jazz with 10 healthy players, including Ahearn.

MORE AHEARN: When asked why he was wearing No. 2, he replied, "That's what I got handed to me. I'm not going to be a stickler about it." In the past, Ahearn has worn Nos. 13 and 6.

In talking about who he models his game after, he nodded to the retired jerseys at the top of the Zions Bank Center.

John Stockton?

Nope, Pete Maravich, whom he called, "my favorite player of all time."

Ahearn also said he knows some of the current Jazz players — he played in rookie camp at Minnesota with Al Jefferson and in the D-League with Jamaal Tinsley. He also said he came to Salt Lake when he was about 12 years old for a national basketball tournament and stayed up at Snowbird.