Jakob Poeltl learning from the bench during rookie season

Former Utah great has not played much for Toronto Raptors

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) - Jakob Poeltl was thrilled to be back in Utah, even though his former team is currently in Hawaii.

"Yeah, that was kind of sad," Poeltl said. "But it's been a lot of fun already. Just seeing a lot of my friends again, just being here driving through the city brings back memories.

Poeltl created a ton of memories at the University of Utah, where he led the Runnin' Utes to back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances. 

Poeltl and the Toronto Raptors take on the Utah Jazz Friday night. Now that he's a pro, what is the biggest difference between college life and life in the NBA?

"You don't have to go to school anymore and can just focus on basketball," Poeltl said with a smile. "You have a lot more freedom to do whatever you want."

But the biggest challenge has been not playing. Poeltl is averaging just 2.4 points per game during his rookie season, and he hasn't played a single minute in 13 games. But even as the 9th overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, he expected this.

"When I was entering the draft, I knew that there was a chance that I won't be playing my first year, maybe even more than that," said Poeltl, whose season-high is 7 points. "There's just a lot of great players out there, and you just have to improve as a basketball player and work your way into the NBA."

"Young guys have a learning curve," said Toronto head coach Dwayne Casey. "Jakob is going through that, he understands the game. But his future is bright. He's going to be an exciting player for this franchise for a long time to come."

And it definitely helps being on one of the top teams in the league, where he can learn from veterans like Jonas Valanciunas.

"Being able to learn from just watching a lot of the time," Poeltl said. "I'm trying to learn from my teammates and my opponents are doing out there just be observing it."

But another teammate has definitely helped his adjustment to the NBA. Poeltl has re-joined former Ute star Delon Wright, who isn't with the team right now as he recovers from a shoulder injury.

"It's great obviously," Poeltl said. "Having this one person that you know, that you've played with and have some chemistry with is really really good."


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