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Jack Cooley, Bryce Cotton embrace NBA opportunity with the Jazz

SALT LAKE CITY — It took four months, but Jack Cooley made it back to Utah.

Cooley, a brawny 6-9 forward/center, and speedy 6-1 guard Bryce Cotton joined the Jazz in time for Wednesday morning’s shootaround after signing 10-day contracts Tuesday.

Both were previously in the D-League, and became the 28th and 29th players to be called up to the NBA this season.

“I’m pretty happy to be back,” Cooley said. “I just really hope that I can show that I can really help this team.”

Cooley lasted awhile with the Jazz during training camp before being waived a week before the 2014-15 season began. He averaged 3.5 points and 3.0 rebounds with Utah in the preseason.

The 246-pounder (at least) was undrafted out of Notre Dame in 2013 and spent the following season in Turkey. He headed to Idaho, Utah’s affiliate, after being cut by the Jazz last fall and has played very well, averaging 24 points and 17.5 rebounds in two games since overcoming a hand injury.

“I definitely feel like I’m a better player (than last fall). I got to play in the D-League, which gave me some pseudo NBA simulation,” Cooley said. “It helped me learn the flow a little bit better. I think I’m a lot more prepared this time around than I was earlier with my stint with the Jazz.”

The Jazz were left thin in their big man corps after trading 6-11 forward/center Enes Kanter to Oklahoma City last week. Now Cooley, who has a familiarity with this system because of his camp experience and from playing for the Stampede, hopes to work his way onto the court doing a couple of things he specializes in.

He has averaged 15.5 points, 10.6 rebounds and 1.4 blocks with Idaho this season.

“I really think I can bring toughness and rebounding. Those are my two staples. That’s really what the Jazz have asked of me,” Cooley said. “Those are my two favorite things to do. If you ask me to do those, those are going to happen. I’m going to go out there and rebound and be physical.”

Cotton has excelled in the San Antonio system, averaging 22.4 points, 4.7 rebounds and 4.6 assists for the Austin Spurs. He’s had two 40-point games, including a 43-pointer with nine assists and eight rebounds against Reno.

The former Providence player went to the Spurs’ NBA training camp and worked out for Utah leading up to the 2014 draft.

“I’m definitely happy. It’s just a bunch of hard work and perseverance. It’s good to see the work come together,” he said of his first NBA gig. “I think I just need to be a ball hawk on defense, use my speed to my advantage and just push the tempo in transition. I think that should be a big benefit to me.”

Cotton said he called his wife right after getting a text congratulating him about an impending phone call from the Jazz.

“That,” he said, “was very exciting for both of us.”

The Jazz continue to mine for hidden talent in the D-League, so even if these players aren’t given many playing opportunities, it’s a good chance for them to show general manager Dennis Lindsey and coach Quin Snyder what they’re capable of doing during practices.

The Jazz have now called up five different players from the D-League this season. Interestingly, Cooley is the first one to be brought up from the Jazz's Idaho partner.

“We have people in,” Snyder said, “because we want to see them and learn about them.”

Elijah Millsap and Patrick Christopher both got starts after their D-League call-ups.

“Obviously, I just want to come in and work hard, bring energy and do whatever they require of me,” Cotton said. “It’s a blessing to be here and have this opportunity.”

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