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The City Journals

The Stars are shining in Taylorsville

Feb 09, 2017 02:47PM ● By Bryan Scott

As many as 40 percent of all NBA stars have D League experience. Jazz guard Raul Neto got some extra court time for the Stars on Jan. 11. (Paul Asay/ Salt Lake City Stars)

By Greg James | [email protected]

The NBA D-League affiliate of the Utah Jazz, the Salt Lake Stars, have flourished in the team's first season in Taylorsville. Their record may not show it, but success is measured in many other ways.

“We have a two-fold purpose,” said Stars General Manager Bart Sharp. “We are trying to develop players and give them an opportunity to stick with an NBA team. Equally important for us is a place for Jazz players to get extra playing and practice time.”

The Jazz returned from a five-game road trip Jan. 9. They were not practicing that day but decided that three of their younger players could use some extra court time. They assigned Dante Exum, Alec Burks and Raul Neto to the Stars for that day's practice. They then recalled them for the next night’s game against the Cleveland Cavaliers. The next day, they reassigned Burks and Neto to the Stars once again to play against the Grand Rapids Drive.

“It gave Alec a place to work on coming back from an injury and Raul a place to get some game experience because he has not been playing much,” Sharp said.

The Stars defeated the Drive 129-94. Burks played 20 minutes and scored 13 points. Neto had a double-double (reaching double figures in two statistical categories). He scored 14 points and had 12 assists. He was one rebound from attaining a triple-double.

Several other players occupy a more stable place on the Stars’ roster. Former Jazzman and fan favorite Sundiata Gaines has played 18 games for the stars and averages 12.6 points per game. 

“Joel Bolomboy has played several games with us this season,” Sharp said. “He is getting game experience. It expedites their development.” 

The Stars are 6-16 so far this season. The team plays its home games in the Lifetime Activities Center on the Taylorsville campus of the Salt Lake Community College.

“The one thing I hear the most is that the seats are right on top of the action,” Sharp said. “There is not a bad seat in the house. Throw in the kids’ zone, and it is a wonderful experience. Lots of kids are up in the bounce house, having their face painted and shooting hoops. It is a very social experience. It is a very affordable night out at a professional basketball game.” 

The players interact with the fans after the game for autographs and photos. The Stars in collaboration with SLCC invested time and money into the infrastructure of the LAC. That includes a video board, new scoreboards and improvements to the locker rooms.

“This can be a unique experience,” Sharp said. “We think this will be a big success for us. When the fans see what this is all about and see how great it is to be this close to the players and NBA basketball.”

The Stars are coached by Dean Cooper and play in the NBA D-League’s Western Conference. The team was formerly known as the Idaho Stampede and began play in 2006. This is their first season in Taylorsville.

“I think it is interesting to know that nearly 40 percent of all NBA players have D-League experience,” Sharp said. “There are several of these guys that—if not this year—the next couple of years will be playing in the NBA.”