SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – Rudy Gobert went from a raw, unproven project to a 3-time NBA All-Star and 3-time Defensive Player of the Year.

Friday night, he returns to place it all started for him, Salt Lake City.

“Everything is strange right now, I’m not going to lie to you,” Gobert said Friday morning after the Minnesota Timberwolves shootaround. “But I’m just trying to embrace it.”

Gobert was traded to Minnesota during the off-season as the Jazz completely rebuilt its roster. But this is where Rudy Gobert grew up as a basketball player. He still owns a house here, and says this still feels like home.

“I spent nine years of my life here,” Gobert said. I’ve still got my house, so it was cool to spend the night in the house. My mom is here too, so it’s amazing to be back here.”

Ever since arriving back in town last night, the memories have been flooding in.

“Just driving downtown, there’s a lot of memories that just pop out,” he said. “From my early years to the last few years, all we were able to accomplish as a team.”

Only four players remain from last year’s team, so there won’t be much of a reunion on the floor. Mike Conley will be back in the lineup after missing the last nine games with a knee injury, and Gobert is eager to possibly square off with Jordan Clarkson, who was ejected during the Jazz win over Golden State on Wednesday.

“I want to see Jordan Clarkson’s boxing skills,” Gobert said while mimicking some boxing moves. “I’m just really excited. Mike is coming back too, so it’s always fun. I love those guys and its fun to compete.”

As for the fan reaction to Gobert’s return, while there were some ups and downs over his nine years here, he’s hoping the fans will remember the good times.

“From what I’ve seen on social media, hopefully some good things,” Gobert said. “I don’t know how much they’re going to cheer for me.Regardless, it should be a cool feeling.”

“There should be signs, jerseys, it should be all love,” Clarkson said. “When he steps on that floor, gets called in the starting lineup, he should feel all that love.”

“I’m sure it will be an electric environment for him,” Conley added. “He’s done a lot for this organization, this city and the state. He’s represented it well and I know he’s excited. So we’re looking forward to competing.”

With so much change during the off-season, Gobert said he has been a little surprised by the Jazz fast start. Utah led the Western Conference at 10-3 earlier in the year, before losing nine of its last 14 games.

“I didn’t expect them to be first in the West,” Gobert said. “But I expected them to be really good and to be a team that can beat anyone.”

Minnesota has underachieved so far this season, going 12-12 to start the season. Gobert is averaging 13.3 points and 11.9 rebounds per game.