Justin Bean received a compliment from an NBA dunking legend last weekend.

Larry Nance, a former Phoenix Suns and Cleveland Cavaliers star and the first winner of the NBA Slam Dunk Content, was in Chicago, Illinois, as his son, Pete Nance, Bean and other players represented by Priority Sports worked out for NBA scouts and executives last Saturday.

“Larry Nance said if there was a dunk contest ruling after the workout, I would have won in a landslide,” Bean said with a laugh.

At least one of Bean’s dunks — a soaring two-handed flush — was captured in a video tweeted by Priority Sports.

The pro day event was the latest effort by the former Utah State forward to impress teams and raise his stock in advance of the NBA Draft on June 23.

So far, Bean has displayed his skills in workouts for the Atlanta Hawks, Golden State Warriors, Boston Celtics and Minnesota Timberwolves.

More workouts are scheduled with the Toronto Raptors, Washington Wizards, Charlotte Hornets and Cavaliers. Bean also hopes to exhibit his game for other teams before the draft.

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How does he feel about his chances of being drafted at this point?

“I honestly have no idea if I’ll get drafted or not. It’s definitely a possibility,” Bean said. “I’m confident in the workouts and feedback I’ve gotten from NBA teams. My road to success has never been easy or clear cut. It’s an honor to even be considered an NBA prospect. However the road looks for me to get to the NBA, I look forward to walking it.” 

Bean spoke with the Deseret News about signing with a sports agency, the pre-draft process of training and NBA workouts, as well as advice he’s received from friends in the league.

How Justin Bean signed with Priority Sports

Priority Sports first approached Bean last November after Utah State defeated Oklahoma in the Myrtle Beach Invitational and Bean was named tournament MVP.

It was the first sports agency to reach out to Bean and it made a good impression. Priority Sports has represented players like Bradley Beal, Gordon Hayward, Kyle Lowry and Michael Porter Jr. It helped that they also represented Bean’s former USU teammate, Sam Merrill.

Other agents contacted Bean in the months that followed, and there were “lots of Zoom calls, meetings and texts,” but in the end he signed with Priority Sports.

“It was pretty chaotic right after the season was over, but I think having that solidarity and foundation with those guys so early on helped make the decision a lot easier,” he said. “Obviously, Sam Merrill had a lot of good things to say.”

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Training in Chicago

Bean has spent that last month training with other Priority Sports clients at their facilities in Chicago, Illinois, namely former Iowa Hawkeyes Keegan and Kris Murray, Patrick Baldwin, who played at Milwaukee, Pete Nance, a Northwestern alum, and others.

During his down time, Bean and his wife Claire have relished the tourist life in a new city.

Justin Bean and his wife Claire kayak in Chicago, Illinois. Justin Bean is training in Chicago for the NBA draft on June 23, 2022.
Former Utah State basketball player Justin Bean and his wife Claire kayak in Chicago, Illinois. Justin Bean is training in Chicago for the NBA Draft on June 23, 2022. | Justin Bean

“We’ve done it all. We went to a Blackhawks game, a Cubs game. We’ve seen four or five museums and done some kayaking,” he said. “We’ve really been trying to get the full experience.”

Justin Bean and his wife Claire attend a Chicago Cubs game at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois.
Former Utah State basketball player Justin Bean and his wife Claire attend a Chicago Cubs game at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. Justin Bean is training in Chicago for the NBA Draft on June 23, 2022. | Justin Bean

The Beans have also worshipped with a downtown congregation of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The only people that recognized the 6-foot-7 forward were a few fellow graduates of Utah State.

“Not many know who I am, so it’s kind of nice to fly under the radar a little bit,” Bean said.

Justin Bean and his wife Claire attend a congregation of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Chicago, Illinois
Former Utah State basketball player Justin Bean and his wife Claire attend a congregation of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Chicago, Illinois. Justin Bean is in Chicago training to prepare for the NBA Draft on June 23, 2022. | Justin Bean

NBA advice from Sam Merrill, Jabari Parker

Bean had the chance to spend a week working out with Merrill after arriving in Chicago. Merrill’s best advice was not a huge secret.

“The biggest thing he said with this whole process is, ‘Just be yourself. Don’t try and change any part of who you are or about your game,’” Bean said. “‘Just stick with what has got you here, and you will be successful.’ That has been really good advice.”

Bean also bumped into Jabari Parker, a fellow Latter-day Saint who was waived by the Boston Celtics in January, while training in Chicago. Bean introduced himself and they spoke briefly.

“I felt like I was meeting a legend, so that was pretty cool,” he said. “The biggest thing he said was to keep working, keep your head down and enjoy the process.”

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Portsmouth Invitational

Before going to Chicago, Bean competed with other NBA prospects at the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament in mid-April.

He almost didn’t go.

“We weren’t actually going to go,” Bean said. “We were kind of debating whether or not it would be worth my time and whether it would hurt my stock or help it because sometimes those those tournaments can get a little crazy and there is a lot of street ball-type play going on. But we ended it doing it and it ended up being great.”’

Bean’s play in the three-day event earned him a spot on the all-tournament team, showcased his skills and scored him interviews with 12 or 13 NBA teams. He also garnered some social media attention for slamming in a rebound on the fly.

What is it like to be interviewed by an NBA team?

“I was honestly a little nervous coming in, not knowing what they were going to ask. People told me different things, but at the end of the day they were just wanting to get to know me as a person,” Bean said.

Is being an older rookie an advantage? Bean thinks so.

“Some teams have commented on the age, me being 25, but most teams, I’ve actually gotten good feedback on how they think that’s helped me become a better player, more versatile and experienced, as someone who could come in as a rookie-veteran-type of a deal, if that’s even a phrase, to be someone who can be a veteran presence for younger guys,” he said. “I definitely think my age and what I bring, having been in a lot of different scenarios, both good and bad, can only help me.”

Feedback from the workouts

A typical NBA workout usually lasts one hour with a lot of 3-on-3 play and some drills that showcase ballhandling and shooting skills.

So far Bean’s workouts with NBA teams have left him feeling upbeat. He has drawn some comparisons to former Utah Jazz player Paul Millsap.

“I’ve gotten good feedback from every team,” he said. “Most teams told me that out of the six guys — there’s always six guys in a workout — I was the top one or two in every workout, though you can’t get too high or low on what these guys are saying because it’s so early in the process and they can’t make any promises. So I’m just trying to take everything with a grain of salt and keep my options open.”

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One team Bean hopes to work out for is his hometown Oklahoma City Thunder.

“Just to be in that arena again as an NBA prospect would be surreal, a dream come true,” he said.

The possibility of playing international basketball

Bean will likely have the opportunity to play overseas if he wants it, and he’s not closing any doors, but the former Aggie made it clear that his top goal is to play in the NBA.

“The goal for myself and Claire right now, long term, is to play in the NBA,” he said. “The road to the NBA may not be straight and smooth like for a lot of other guys, but for me, however long it takes me, or whatever route that is, that is where we want to get to, so overseas is probably the last option for us right now.”

Former Utah State forward Justin Bean is training in Chicago, Illinois, to prepare for the NBA draft on June 23, 2022.
Former Utah State forward Justin Bean is training in Chicago, Illinois, to prepare for the NBA Draft on June 23, 2022. | Justin Bean
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