Getting their kicks: RSL joins Utah Jazz for practice at Zions Bank Basketball Campus
The Jazz gathered for practice Monday and welcomed another group of premier athletes onto the court — the players of Real Salt Lake.
The Utah Jazz gathered for practice on Monday at Zions Bank Basketball Campus and welcomed another group of premier athletes onto the court — the players of Real Salt Lake.
Back in September, the Jazz joined RSL on the soccer pitch for some light drills and training before watching the experts show what a real MLS practice looked like. At the time, the Jazz were just starting to come together before NBA training camps opened up and RSL saw it as an opportunity to break up the monotony of the MLS schedule.
Now, in the midst of the MLS preseason, RSL is gearing up for the upcoming 2023 season, while the Jazz — with a rare three days in between games — are looking for ways to introduce some fun elements as the NBA schedule nears the trade deadline and the All-Star break.
Jazz rookie Ochai Agbaji, who grew up a multisport athlete, played soccer through high school and has enjoyed it when the Jazz and RSL have been able to get together.
“It’s always cool crossing sports like how we did earlier in the season,” Agbaji said. “Playing soccer, that respect that I have for soccer players and what they do and vice versa, the respect that they have for us and what we do in our profession.”
When the Jazz were on the pitch with RSL, it was clear that despite being professional athletes, the Jazz players just weren’t able to match up with the skill level of the RSL players, and the same was true when RSL stepped onto the hardwood on Monday.
Though, from what many of the players on both teams said, they were a little surprised by the shooting abilities of some of the RSL players. Forward Justin Meram and defenders Justen Glad and Marcelo Silva were able to hit quite a few shots that impressed their own teammates. Also, Damir Kreilach, who is close friends with former Jazzman and fellow Croatia native Bojan Bogdanovic, got a few buckets.
Kreilach and Bogdanovic spent a lot of time together during the 2020 COVID-19 shutdown of sports, trying to stay in shape. They’d play soccer and tennis a lot, but would often close out their workouts by getting up some shots.
Though it was weird for Kreilach to be at the Jazz facility and not see Bogdanovic, who is now in Detroit with the Pistons, Kreilach said he was happy to be involved with the Jazz in any way he could and that he always enjoys being able to watch other athletes who are at the top of their profession do what they do best, a sentiment that was shared by everyone on the RSL roster.
“It’s always great to see other athletes perform,” midfielder Jasper Löffelsend said. “Seeing what these guys do, seeing how their practice is compared to us. Obviously, those guys have way more games than we do so their training is a little bit more about getting touches and getting your routine and our training is more about explosiveness … maybe a little bit more running.”
When asked if he learned anything about himself or if anything surprised him during the practice session, Löffelsend stated the obvious.
“I’m tiny,” he said with a laugh. “It’s always surreal for me how guys can be that tall and still move around like this. I mean they’re athletes, you know? But for me it’s just fun to see a guy go off in the air like this and dunk and all that stuff. It’s pretty impressive.”
Though the RSL players won’t be turning in their cleats for basketball sneakers anytime soon, they enjoyed their time getting to hoop around with the Jazz players.
“It was super fun, a lot of bad shots from the RSL guys, I’m not going to lie about it, a lot of people need to work on their game,” Glad said jokingly. “It’s a great time out here. They’re super welcoming, super friendly. So, it’s been an awesome day.”