SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – Ryan Smith owns both the Utah Jazz and Real Salt Lake, and on Monday the two teams were brought together for a little workout.
Members of RSL took time out from training for the upcoming season and got some shots up at Zions Bank Basketball Campus with the Jazz.
“It was just drills and stuff,” said Jazz rookie Ochai Agbaji. “We didn’t do anything against them, just drills on separate courts and then we did some drills together.”
“We had some segments with them and they were good,” said Jazz forward Lauri Markkanen. “A lot of really good shooting form and making shots so I was impressed.”
RSL forward Justin Meram and defenders Justen Glad and Marcelo Silva hit a few shots. Also, Damir Kreilach, who is close friends with former Jazzman and fellow Croatia native Bojan Bogdanovic, got a few buckets, as did midfielder Jasper Löffelsend
“It’s always great to see other athletes perform,” 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 and maybe a little bit more running.”
“It’s always cool like crossing sports, like how we did that earlier in the season,” Agbaji said. “Just from playing soccer, knowing that respect that I have for soccer players and what they do, and vice versa, the respect they have for us and what we do in our profession.”
Today was a return workout from last fall, when the Jazz players went through some soccer drills with the RSL players in Herriman.
“We obviously looked all out of sorts,” Agbaji said. “They were making us look silly, doing all the tricks and stuff. But like I said, there’s just a mutual respect for each other’s sports.”
Both Agbaji and Markkanen played soccer at high levels while growing up, so they know how difficult the sport is. And there are a few others on the Jazz team who were also good at soccer.
“I think I’m alright, considering I’m a basketball player, but this is so totally different,” Markkanen said. “Every recess with friends, go out after school and play soccer, so I definitely did a lot of that outside of basketball.”
“Some guys have foot skills,” said Agbaji. “Like Lauri has foot skills, he can juggle the ball. And [Udoka Azubuike] obviously knows how to play soccer, and Simone [Fontecchio] too. So we have some guys who can play. But I think between me and Leo, foot skills-wise, making simple soccer plays is what I’ve seen.”
But as both Agbaji and Markkanen grew, they decided basketball was the way to go.
“After my sophomore year, I got my first official Division 1 offer from Miami of Ohio,” Agbaji said. “That’s when I was like, I can really do something with basketball more than soccer.”
“Basketball was so much more fun for me than soccer for me, so it was an easy decision at that point.” said Markkanen. “But I remember going straight from basketball practice to soccer practice, and in basketball you catch it with your hands and I’m like, you’re not suppose to do this. Then it started kind of hitting me, maybe it’s basketball that I have to pick up.”
Markkanen said there was actually another sport that he wanted to play, and that was hockey.
“One practice when I was like five, I told my mom that it took too long to put the gear on so I need to stop and that was it,” he said. “But I did go outside and play hockey all the time, and I always liked to be a goalie. So if I didn’t grow this tall, I would love to be a hockey goalie.”
Real Salt Lake kicks off the season February 25th, while the Jazz resume their homestand Wednesday night against Toronto.