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News » Fesenko beginning to perform


Fesenko beginning to perform


Fesenko beginning to perform
Kyrylo Fesenko settled his 7-foot-1, 300ish-pound body into an undersized chair in front of a corner locker stall at the Toyota Center in Houston and braced for questions.

One nipped at the corner, but the first few -- generally speaking, and understandably so -- were relative softballs.

Fesenko, after all, hadn't just held his own against an All-Star five inches and who-knows-how-many-muscle-pounds larger.

Rather, he clearly had frustrated Yao Ming, helping limit the Rockets center to 9-for-23 field shooting in a double-overtime Houston win. And he did so while enjoying a career night himself, with three blocks and a personal-high 12 points and personal-best 11 rebounds for his first NBA double-double.

That 34-minute effort came one evening after Fesenko -- playing rare and extended time only because Jazz big men Mehmet Okur, Carlos Boozer, Paul Millsap and Jarron Collins were injured -- tallied eight points, four boards and three blocks over 16 minutes in a home win against Dallas.

Then, finally, came the delivery he seemed to be awaiting: Can he, Fesenko was asked, do on a consistent basis what he did over the weekend -- and, if so, why hasn't he shown any signs of it so far?

"That's an interesting question," the just-turned-22 Ukrainian said. "I don't know. (Saturday) I just feel the game. (Friday and Saturday), I wasn't worried at all. I wasn't nervous at all.

"I think that helps me a lot, because I was pretty confident with my game. ... I was sure everything was going to be all right, and it gives me second breath."

Jazz coach Jerry Sloan took a deep breath before Saturday's game when essentially asked just what's been holding back Fesenko, a second-year pro who was acquired in a prearranged 2007 draft-night swap of second-round picks with Utah's opponent tonight, the Philadelphia 76ers.

His response seemed to reflect questioning of not only Fesenko's physical conditioning but also commitment to, and appreciation for, his chosen profession.

"Some guys don't like to play, some guys do," he said. "Some treat it like a job. You've got to wonder how many guys play Basketball because they're tall.

"He's got some talent," Sloan added. "There's never been any question about his talent. It's just his focus and dedication to the game of Basketball."

Yet the Jazz still have stuck with Fesenko, who spent most of last season with their NBA Development League-affiliate Utah Flash and who has appeared in just 18 NBA games since being drafted.

"There are so few big guys," Sloan said. "You have a tendency to try to wait them out and see if they're gonna come around. A lot of guys come around later on. And he's still young."

Still maturing and still learning to play, too.

On Saturday, Fesenko credited teammate Matt Harpring for recently teaching him a couple low-post moves and defensive tricks.

Other teammates, meanwhile, profess faith in the easy going class-clown type whose oft-sophomoric humor is endearing to some but nerve-grating to others.

"All a young guy needs," veteran forward Andrei Kirilenko said, "is confidence and game time."

"There's definitely certain matchups that are good for Fes," swingman Kyle Korver added with reference to especially large bigs like Yao, Shaquille O'Neal and Dwight Howard. "Fes is a big body, and he's got pretty good coordination. When he's focused, he's blocking shots and he's rebounding the ball. ... I've never seen him play (as well as Saturday) before -- in practice or a game."

Ex-Sixer Korver also said the Jazz "definitely were at our best (Saturday) when Fes was playing, and that's something to say."

And something else Korver said, perhaps even more-telling: "I know Fes has got it in him."

But extracting "it" is what's proved most problematic, and Fesenko knows it.

At the start of a pre-Christmas trip for the Jazz, he was the one getting no playing time whatsoever -- but finding time to joke in one arena's hallway, only to beeline to the locker room when a certain head coach turned the corner in principal-like fashion.

At the end of that same five-game trip, Fesenko was the one sitting at the end of the bench in Milwaukee -- genuinely mad at himself for having blown the rare opportunity he got there.

Fesenko exited after drawing two fouls and doing nothing else in less than four minutes -- the sort of showing that can be the beginning to the conclusion of NBA careers, even for really big guys.

"I was getting on myself pretty hard," said Fesenko, who stewed as the now 18-14 Jazz lost and closed their trip 2-3.

Sloan opened with Fesenko in Okur's place against the Bucks, Fesenko's first game after having not played in 11 straight.

Saturday, the Jazz coach expressed regret over that decision.

"I look back on it," Sloan said, "and I started him up there, and he probably was a little bit nervous. It probably took something out of him."

Against the Mavs and Rockets, Fesenko came off the bench behind rookie Kosta Koufos -- and Sloan was much more pleased.

That's because the effort in Houston, especially, was the type that extends careers, not ends them.

"He played (Yao) pretty good," the Jazz coach said. "That's what we've been waiting for.

"I hope he realizes how tired he got to try to finish (Saturday's) game," Sloan added. "That's a matter of being in shape -- something you have to (work on) every day." E-mail: tbuckley@desnews.com


Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website: http://www.foxsports.com
Added: December 30, 2008

 

 
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