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Utah Jazz: Aaron Harrison's shooting eye lacks focus during workout

SALT LAKE CITY — Timing is of the essence in everything we do.

Whether we're trying to carve out our career path, choosing which house to buy or on the verge of falling in love, there's almost always a right time — and often a wrong time — to make life's most critical decisions.

And, unfortunately, it appears Aaron Harrison's shooting eye picked a very inopportune time to lose focus.

Harrison, a 6-foot-6 shooting guard from the University of Kentucky, worked out for the Utah Jazz on Friday as the NBA team continues its quest to find just the right guy(s) to fit the franchise's needs best leading up to the annual NBA draft on June 25.

And just as it did during much of his sophomore season at Kentucky, Harrison's shooting stroke deserted him at times.

"Not as well as I thought he was gonna shoot," Jazz vice president of player personnel Walt Perrin confessed in sizing up how Harrison's workout went Friday at Zions Bank Basketball Center. "I mean, the shots he missed were right on line. He wasn't off left or right, it was just a little short, just a little bit off maybe left or right, a couple went in and out.

"He shot it well during the 3-on-3, but during the (other drills) he didn't shoot as well as I hoped and I'm sure not as well as he had hoped he would have shot it.

"His freshman year, he shot it pretty well," Perrin said. "His sophomore year, he didn't shoot it as well. So I want to make sure he's back on par as far as the type of shooter he is, which we know he's a pretty good shooter."

Harrison's statistics at Kentucky certainly bear out Perrin's assessment.

As a freshman in 2013-14, the former McDonald's All-American averaged 13.7 points per game while shooting 42.3 percent from the field, 35.6 percent from 3-point range and 79 percent from the foul line for the Wildcats.

Last season as a sophomore, however, Harrison's scoring average dipped to 11 ppg and his shooting numbers dropped across the board — to 39.5, 31.6 and 78.2.

While that trend could definitely be a concern, Perrin said there were other things that Harrison did Friday that impressed him.

"He showed an ability to get to the basket and use his size and strength. He did that well," the Jazz player personnel expert said. "With most kids, you've got to figure out how well will they be able to play defense at their position. And he's got the strength; he's got to work on the quickness probably."

For his part, though, Harrison thought Friday's workout — the fifth one he's done for NBA teams (and potential employers) thus far — went "pretty well."

"I played pretty well. I shot the ball pretty well," he said. "I just wanted to show I'm a good basketball player. I can play some (point guard), can handle the ball, get to the basket and can score the ball in multiple ways. I just wanted to show I had the skill and show I've been working hard."

And he thinks his skill set would mesh well with the current Jazz roster. "I know they already have a good wing player in Gordon Hayward and Alec Burks," he said, "and I think I would fit pretty well, being able to handle the ball and being able to score. And I know they're a big defensive team."

Having the capability to be a combo guard who can play both backcourt positions could certainly work to Harrison's advantage, and that's something he's focusing on in these often grueling workout sessions which take prospective NBA players on a hectic whirlwind tour around the country.

"I think it's an advantage I have because I am a bigger guy, a bigger guard, and I definitely can handle the ball, and I think I'm smart with the ball (when) making decisions," Harrison said.

"... We had a lot of talent (at Kentucky) and I didn't handle the ball as much, and I think I'm a really good ball handler. So I think I'll just go out here and show that I can handle the ball really well and get to the basket and create for my teammates, and not just shooting and scoring and stuff."

And then there's the difficult grind of working out for different NBA teams leading up to the draft.

"Just got to make sure you take care of your body," he said. "You get sore throughout this process. It's a long process, and you've got to take care of your body, eat right, and just enjoy it.

"I mean, it's everything you can dream of, traveling and playing basketball every day, so I'm enjoying it."

Harrison has been helped through this process by his twin brother, Andrew, who's a projected second-round pick and worked out for the Jazz a couple of weeks ago.

The two twins from Texas talk on the phone every day, and Andrew's advice for Aaron paid off Friday.

"He just told me to be ready for the last layup drill," Aaron Harrison said of the difficult challenge that requires players to make six layups, going up and down the full length of the court six times, in 32 seconds. "I was pretty mentally prepared for that already. ... So it's pretty tough. But you've got to get used to the altitude — definitely."

He wound up being one of five players who tried to strut their stuff for the Jazz on Friday after Maryland swingman Dez Wells was forced to pull out of the workout during to an injury.

The other four who managed to make it through Friday's session included Phil Greene, a 6-foot-2 guard from St. John's; Trevor Lacey, a 6-3 guard from North Carolina State; Yanick Moreira, a 6-11 center from SMU; and Jaleel Roberts, a 7-foot center from UNC Asheville.

In all, Perrin liked what he saw.

"I was proud of this group," he said. "Sometimes it's tough when one of the players has to pull out of a workout and then they have to go 3-on-2. But they all fought through it, they all did a good job, they all came in in really good shape. So I was proud of this group going through the workout.

"In some regard, they all had good points during the workout. Yanick shot it well from the 15-foot area and competed real well, and Jaleel also did the same thing."

EMAIL: rhollis@desnews.com