SALT LAKE CITY — William McDowell-White arrived at the Zions Bank Basketball Campus for his pre-draft workout with the Utah Jazz on June 10.
The Australian prospect learned about the workout just days in advance, after showcasing his talents for the Los Angeles Lakers and Oklahoma City Thunder.
While most NBA Draft prospects were intrigued by Utah’s rising star Donovan Mitchell, coming off the second-round playoff appearance, McDowell-White was captivated by the franchise for personal reasons.
“It definitely inspired me a lot because growing up when Joe (Ingles) was playing back home, he was actually my favorite player when I was playing in the Australian league and to see him just in the NBA,” McDowell-White said. “He’s kind of like Steph (Curry), not quick, not athletic, but to do what he does is just incredible.”
McDowell-White is like most guys from his homeland as they continue to watch the NBA’s boom in Australian-born talent across the league.
That ascension will be on display for the Utah Jazz as teammates Ingles and Exum prepare to welcome the National Basketball League’s Perth Wildcats of Australia to Vivint Arena on Saturday for the preseason opener at 7 p.m.
Former Jazz player Bryce Cotton is the star of the Wildcats after being named 2018 NBL MVP.
Utah will also host the Adelaide 36ers on Oct. 5, marking the second straight season that the Jazz have played teams from NBL, but Ingles was hesitant to accept any credit for the rise of basketball in Australia even coming off his best season as a pro.
“I don’t think they were watching highlights of me and trying to emulate what I do on the court,” Ingles said, smirking. “But basketball is definitely getting bigger in Australia. The leagues are getting better and better.
“The Americans that are going over there are getting better,” he continued. “The thing I liked last year was — up or down whatever the score — they’re going to play the same way. They’re going to play hard. They’re not going to back down. Similar to the Australians here. It will be fun."
Exum, born in Melbourne, Australia, was drafted fifth overall by the Jazz in 2014. Last year, he was limited to 14 games after rehabbing from a left shoulder injury. He enters this season feeling as good as he ever has and his path to the league, which included a stop at AIS, is somewhat a reflection of the new direction of basketball from Australia.
“No pressure at all. Just like last year when I came back and played, it was no pressure,” Exum said. “It was just to go out and play and that’s what I want to do. I just want the opportunity to play and showcase what I can do given the opportunity. I’m sure through the hard work that I put in this summer and previous summers and the rehab that I’ve had to do to get back that I’ll be good.”
AIS, also home to the Basketball Australia Centre of Excellence (BA CoE), is a sports training institution, run by the Australian government, to work with athletes in every way imaginable. Everything from housing, nutrition and sports science and medicine is offered at the Australian training center. NBA scouts and executives are definitely paying attention since the NBA Global Academy is on site to partner with young international talent in the same program.
“It’s really been coming on real strong,” said Walt Perrin, Utah’s vice president of player personnel. “They’ve become one of the best international teams. They’ve got players coming to the United States and playing quite a bit in major programs. It’s really grown in Australia and Canada.
“One, I think because they speak English so they can acclimate to the NBA game a little easier,” he added. “They watch the NBA game quite a bit, they’ve got an institute down there that has been putting out really good basketball players for the last few years so they’ve got a structure where they can get players when they’re young to teach them all the fundamentals and teach them up as they grow and get older.”
There are currently 11 Australians on NBA training camp rosters heading into the 2018-19 season.
Of course, Ingles and Exum play for the Jazz but the others include: Jonah Bolden (Philadelphia); Aron Baynes (Boston); Ben Simmons (Philadelphia); Ryan Broekhoff (Dallas); Matthew Dellavedova (Milwaukee); Thon Maker (Milwaukee); Patty Mills (San Antonio); Mitch Creek (Brooklyn); and Deng Adel (Toronto Raptors).
The record for Australian players on opening-night rosters is eight, according to the NBA, but the league can’t officially calculate the final international roster until opening night on Oct. 16 (once the team rosters are set), to confirm the record.
“It’s a great time to be an Australian in basketball,” Exum said. “Names keep popping up, getting into the league and I’m not surprised that we’re finally getting some recognition and guys are getting into training camp spots and even Ryan Broekhoff getting a spot, I’m not surprised at that. Hopefully, in the years to come we get more.”
Although Ingles takes a humble approach to his stature in Australia, fleets of young guys are watching his every move as a Jazzman. McDowell-White insists that he’s his favorite Aussie, even if Ingles isn’t convinced.
“I just love the way he plays. Everything is just in slow motion,” McDowell-White said of Ingles. “To even get to the rim is like a miracle so it’s great.”