Second of a three-day series looking ahead to Tuesday's NBA draft lottery
He's at the doorstep of his dream, poised to become perhaps the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft next month and gain access to millions of dollars in contract and endorsement deals. And all of a sudden, Andrew Bogut is confronted by the possibility that his first professional season will be ruined by a labor dispute.
In just the same way he tackled everything during his two years with the Utah Utes, the 7-foot Australian center simply promised to use any potential work stoppage to his advantage, rather than mope and worry about when the checks might start cashing.
"I'll just make a positive out of it," he said. "It will give me more time to work on the little things that I need to get ready for the NBA. It's not like I'm going to be 100 percent ready, even in two or three years. . . . You've got levels, you know? Every summer is when you get better, and if there's extra summer, I'm not going to complain. I'm going to be in the gym every day working on things."
That's what Bogut has been doing, too, since finishing his postseason national award tour last month.
The 20-year-old won just about every award college basketball has to offer in the wake of his tremendous sophomore season leading the Utes to a 29-6 record and the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament, yet was happy to complete the banquet circuit and settle into a training regimen under former Jazz player John Duren arranged by his agents at SFX Sports Group in Washington, D.C.
Now, having bulked up some 20 pounds to 255 - "that would be an ideal playing weight," he said, "maybe five more pounds" - he's just waiting to see how the NBA draft lottery turns out Tuesday, to get a better idea of where all of his hard work might land him.
"As soon as that lottery comes out, I'm sure there will be a lot of phone calls made," he said. "Figure out a workout schedule and what teams are more interested than others, and go from there, basically."
The Atlanta Hawks have the best chance of scoring the No. 1 pick, and they're widely presumed to want Bogut. They even flew Utah coach Ray Giacoletti out to meet with them last week for a personal scouting report. The Jazz also have a slight chance of landing the top choice - 11.9 percent, to be exact - and Bogut has talked about how much he would like to play for coach Jerry Sloan.
But Bogut has maintained all along that he will adjust to whatever position he encounters, though he would prefer to play somewhere warm and where he won't be expected to be an immediate savior.
Bogut probably will carry a heavy burden, though, whether he lands in Atlanta, Charlotte, New Orleans - the Bobcats and Hornets are the next-most likely winners of the lottery, after the Hawks - or elsewhere. And that is precisely what he has been anticipating as he goes through daily sessions both on the court and in the weight room.
Trainers even have put him through boxing and karate exercises, he said, in order to improve his coordination and flexibility.
"Every part of my game needs to be improved," he said. "It's just a big challenge. Every day you have to bring it."
Bogut said he plans to attend the pre-draft camp in Chicago - he doesn't anticipate a visit to Utah anytime soon - but only to be weighed and measured. His workouts will be limited to private sessions with teams that have a strong interest in and reasonable possibility of choosing him. Agent David Bauman of SFX indicated in March that teams picking outside the top three are "not going to get it done."
Of course, nobody will have the chance to get it done if the NBA's owners lock out the players when the collective bargaining agreement expires on June 30 - two days after the draft.
But that's a long way off, and no certainty.
So Bogut is happy, in the meantime, to work on his Croatian language skills with workout partner Drago Pasalic and dream about making his homelands - both of them, Australia and his parents' native Croatia - proud by becoming the first pick of the draft and making the Utes the first team ever to produce the No. 1 picks in both the NBA and NFL drafts in the same year.
Quarterback Alex Smith was the top pick in the NFL draft last month, going to the San Francisco 49ers.
"It's something that would be in history forever," Bogut said. "It would be a huge honor, and hopefully it would help basketball in Australia, because it's struggling over there.
"You always want to get in a situation that's ideal for you," he added. "You want to get in a situation where you know you have to fight to a certain degree, you want to be in a successful organization or an organization that's headed in the right direction. But at the end of the day, just ask anybody, No. 1 is No. 1. . . . Hopefully, I'm up to the challenge."