It’s more so me bringing a different thing to the game that I do well. And that’s me playing hard every possession, playing with so much passion and energy all game, doing all of the dirty work, the banging and the bruising. It’s just about doing what I do best. – Montrezl Harrell
SALT LAKE CITY — Montrezl Harrell doesn’t wear a warning sign when he enters gyms, but he might be required to if keeps treating rims and backboards poorly.
Consider this tidbit from the personal section of the former Louisville power forward’s bio in the Utah Jazz’s pre-draft workout media book: “Shattered a backboard in practice during his senior year of high school.”
Turns out, the projected first-round pick has actually busted up three backboards while dunking.
“He’s a power dunker,” Jazz vice president of player personnel Walt Perrin said. “He gets some oohs and aahs when he puts the ball into the basket.”
Fortunately for the Jazz, Harrell spared the rims in their practice facility during Sunday’s audition, which he participated in with Duke guard Quinn Cook, Villanova guard Darrun Hillard, Nebraska forward Terran Petteway, Baylor guard Kenny Chery and Minnesota forward Maurice Walker.
Backboards at his high school, Hargrave Military in Chatham, Virginia, and at college gyms in Florida and Cincinnati weren’t so lucky.
The high school backboard busting happened in practice a few years ago. The other backboards came crashing down last summer.
“It’s a great feeling,” he said, flashing a big grin. “I was blessed and able to take down three.”
Harrell, a 6-foot-8, 253-pound athlete and 2015 All-ACC Academic first-teamer, said there isn’t a particular technique he uses to rip down the rims. It just happens on occasion — and to him more than just about anybody else.
“The majority of the time it’s surprising,” he said Sunday morning at Zions Bank Basketball Center. “I was just winding up doing normal dunks. It just happened to shatter.”
Other players might be warned ahead of playing Harrell, who makes up for being a bit undersized by playing his heart out, similar to former Jazz players DeMarre Carroll and Paul Millsap.
He addressed that concept when asked what NBA player he models his game after.
“It’s more so me bringing a different thing to the game that I do well,” Harrell said. “And that’s me playing hard every possession, playing with so much passion and energy all game, doing all of the dirty work, the banging and the bruising. It’s just about doing what I do best.”
Harrell did enough things well enough this past season at Louisville to earn the newly renamed Karl Malone Award, which honors the best college power forward in the nation. He averaged 15.7 points and 9.2 rebounds en route to All-ACC second-team recognition two years after being a contributor on the Cardinals’ national championship team.
Harrell, who won a gold medal with the 2012 USA U18 national team in the FIBA Americas Championship, said it was a “blessing” to receive that award from The Mailman.
The 21-year-old cherished the advice the Hall of Famer gave him, too.
Malone told him, “Play with the same passion and energy that you have. Whether you’re in a game situation or a practice situation … make your presence be known.” Multiple backboards have felt that powerful presence.
Petteway has as well. The two participated in the same Adidas Nations basketball showcase.
“That guy has a hot motor,” Petteway said of Harrell. “That’s what I like about him. He keeps going no matter what.”
That and the fact that Harrell’s outside game continues to improve — he’s working on his 15-to-17-foot game — makes him a possible consideration for the Jazz at No. 12 or later if they trade down in the draft. He’s certainly expected to be off the board by the time their two second-round picks come around.
“He’s a big energy guy,” Perrin said. “He’s an athletic player.”
Although some mock drafts have him going in the middle of the first round, Harrell said he can’t worry about anything like that. He’s more focused on things he can control — training hard, eating right, getting proper rest.
“When the lottery comes, we (will) let the chips fall where they may,” Harrell said. “I just feel like whatever team that I go to, they’re definitely getting a player that’s looking to come in and work from Day 1 and looking into buying into the team’s program and definitely be all about the team.”
NOTE: The Jazz will have yet another workout Monday, including Connecticut guard Ryan Boatright, Iowa State forward Dustin Hogue, St. John’s guard Sir'Dominic Pointer, UCLA guard Norman Powell, Stanford guard Chasson Randle and Tennesse guard Josh Richardson.