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Utah Jazz hope to find hidden gems at free-agent minicamp

SALT LAKE CITY — David Fredman has been working in and around the NBA for four-plus decades, and the past year has been one of the most rewarding in the Utah Jazz’s director of pro player personnel’s career.

Fredman, or Freddy as co-workers call him, couldn’t be happier about how the Jazz made seven D-League call-ups during the past season.

He’s satisfied that eight players who participated in the two previous Jazz free agent minicamps ended up on NBA rosters.

And he’s ecstatic that Jack Cooley and Patrick Christopher wound up playing for Utah after they took part in the 2014 camp.

For a scout who looks around the world for hidden gems, those are all significant accomplishments. It’s why Fredman described what’s transpired over the past 12 months as “one of the most exciting and fun years I personally had since we (Jazz) went to the Finals.”

Fredman smiled when asked if he gets a bonus for minicamp players making the Jazz roster, but he added that Utah general manager Dennis Lindsey has teased him in the past about his campers ending up elsewhere in the NBA.

“So,” he said, “it was nice to see a couple of guys get a chance this year.”

Coincidentally, Cooley was among the current Jazz players — Derrick Favors, Chris Johnson and Grant Jerrett being the others — to work with team coaches between Wednesday’s minicamp sessions.

Cooley was with Utah for the minicamp and training camp before being released and then brought back (twice) from the D-League last season.

Christopher suffered a rough kneecap injury last December after getting his chance with the Jazz, in part because of his performance in the last minicamp. Fredman said he's recovering well and will be considered for a summer league spot.

This is the third year the Jazz have hosted free agents — 27 this time around — for workouts and scrimmages for a three-day camp. Lindsey implemented the scouting program after joining the Jazz from San Antonio in hopes of finding players like Danny Green and Gary Neal like the Spurs did in their minicamps.

“If you’re a scout, you’re also a competitor,” Fredman said. “’And you like to say, ‘Who can I find that can play in the NBA that’s like a second-draft guy?’ It’s a lot of fun to have these things.”

Fredman pointed out that guys participating aren’t that much different talent-wise than many end-of-the-bench players in the NBA. And the Jazz are more than willing to pay for their flights, housing, food, per diem and coaching for a few days to give them the opportunity to showcase their talents.

Some of the players will be considered for — or do currently play for — the Jazz’s D-League team in Idaho.

Some will likely be invited to participate in the Rocky Mountain Revue and the Las Vegas Summer League with Utah.

A few even have an outside chance to get that NBA opportunity like Cooley and Christopher did.

“It’s an exciting time to work for the Utah Jazz with things like this,” Fredman said.

It makes his job of finding players for the minicamp a bit easier after Jazz coach Quin Snyder gave D-League guys chances to play in the NBA last season.

“The agents of the players know that we now have a track record. Guys that come into this camp have had success,” Fredman said. “When you call up seven D-League guys in the season, they know that Quin Snyder values that, so it’s terrific. It’s been a lot of fun.”

It makes sense that Snyder is pro-D-League, considering how his coaching career was revived thanks to the Spurs and his three-year stint in Austin. Jazz assistants Brad Jones and Alex Jensen also have had impressive experiences in the D-League.

Fredman believes that makes attending this minicamp and working out for the Jazz all the more enticing to players — and their agents.

“They know it’s more than lip service,” Fredman said. “Your guy will have a chance.”