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Suns NBA Draft notebook: Luke Kornet, Kennedy Meeks back in the Valley

Vanderbilt forward Luke Kornet (3) drives against Florida forward Keith Stone in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, March 4, 2017, in Nashville, Tenn. Kornet led Vanderbilt with 24 points as Vanderbilt upset Florida 73-71. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

PHOENIX — There will be other pre-draft workouts for sure, but perhaps none will be able to match the one Luke Kornet participated in on Tuesday.

Kornet, a 7-foot center from Vanderbilt, grew up in Phoenix. Even better, he grew up a Suns fan.

And while many Suns fans can only dream about putting on their favorite team’s uniform, Kornet did just that.

“It was definitely a weird feeling,” he said. “It’s one of those things that hasn’t even really like hit me yet, but it’s just a cool thing, especially just looking back when I was a little kid, watching Steve Nash. He’s my favorite player. It’s one of those things that when you sit back and think about, it’s crazy how far it’s been.”

Truth be told the workout wasn’t the first time Kornet had been on the practice court at Talking Stick Resort Arena. Once upon a time, he played with the Jr. Suns, winning a 3-point contest when he was 8- or 9-years-old.

Kornet and his family moved to Texas when he was in the sixth grade.

A standout four-year college career at Vanderbilt, where he averaged 13.2 points, 6.2 rebounds and 2.0 blocks while shooting 32.7 percent from 3 as a senior, earned Kornet his workout with the Suns and his prior visits with Boston, Houston and Sacramento.

Kornet isn’t sure what to expect come draft night. Many mock drafts don’t include his name.

Still, Kornet has a dream and wouldn’t it be something if that dream became reality, especially in the place he once called home.

“It’s really incredible, especially being a little kid, you want to play in the NBA but it’s kind of so far-fetched,” he said. “To actually be able to come out and, like, play on the Suns, just be on the court that you watched players on, it’s something that when you do take a step back you can just truly appreciate.

“I mean it’s something that’s humbling. You always got to be grateful for where you’ve come in life and wherever that ends up for me, like if it was here, it’s just one of those things I just have to appreciate and just kind of work to improve.”

Kennedy Meeks, too, found his way back to the Valley on Tuesday.

It was just eight weeks ago in which Meeks and the North Carolina Tar Heels were cutting down the nets at University of Phoenix Stadium after beating Gonzaga for the national championship.

“I love Phoenix, of course,” he said, grinning ear-to-ear. “Winning a championship here is always fun, so definitely being back is a good deal.”

As luck would have it, Meeks stayed in the same hotel as he did during the Final Four.

“It still doesn’t seem that real just because what happened the year before,” he said, referring to the loss to Villanova. “I just think that the main thing for us was to continue to work hard and we got the right result and we were the last team standing on Monday night.”

Meeks, listed at 6-foot-10 and 276 pounds, stood tall that weekend. He had a double-double against Oregon, scoring 25 points on 11-of-13 shooting from the field with 14 rebounds. And while he didn’t score as well two nights later, he defended Przemek Karnowski, helping limit the Gonzaga big man to 1-of-8 shooting while grabbing 10 rebounds.

He also made the game-clinching block on Nigel Williams-Goss.

Even before the NCAA Tournament, Meeks had been on scouts’ radar — he averaged 12.5 points and 9.5 rebounds as a senior — but performances like what he displayed in Glendale would seem to only enhance his draft stock.

“I think it helps it, but at the same time, you just got to come into these workouts and give it all you got because that’s in the past,” he said. “Of course you can see what I did on the biggest stage, but that means nothing when you come into these workouts because it’s an even playing field and everybody is out to get a spot in the NBA. My main objective every time is to come in here and do the best job I can and hope for a great result.”

“My main objective every time is to come in here and do the best job I can and hope for a great result.”

FREE THROWS

— Perhaps one of the more interesting draft prospects the Suns had in town on Tuesday was SMU junior forward Semi Ojeleye.

Listed at 6-foot-7, 241-pounds, Ojeleye tested well at the combine. His 40.5-inch vertical leap tied for fifth-best, while he tied for eighth in a sprinting drill and was third in a lane agility sprint.

Because of his size and athleticism, Ojeleye was often asked to guard multiple positions.

“And looks like he can play tight end in the NFL, too,” assistant GM Pat Connelly said. “It’s intriguing because the way the league is going it seems like positional versatility is something that’s very valued because a traditional 4 is a little bit different now. Everybody kind of plays different positions and it’s kind of more who you can guard.

“His strength and mobility—because he’s a really big and strong kid—to kind of play the 3 and then drop down to play the 4 and have the strength and athleticism to matchup is impressive.”

— It’s become a staple of Suns pre-draft workouts: the three-minute run test, when players are timed running the length of the court with a Suns staffer recording how many times a player can touch the baseline.

Of course, this comes at the end of the workout, following a series of drills and halfcourt activity, so the players are tired.

“All of them were in really good shape,” Connelly said of Tuesday’s participants. “Nobody did not stand out in the three-minute run. That’s a good political answer, right? I don’t want agents calling me afterwards and saying why are you killing my guy about the three-minute run.”

— Between Monday and Tuesday, the Suns have had 13 players in town for pre-draft workouts. No other workouts are scheduled for this week. Workouts, though, are expected to resume next week, perhaps with prospects worthy of top-five consideration.

The Suns have the No. 4 overall pick, in addition to a pair of second-round selections, Nos. 32 and 54.

The NBA Draft is June 22.

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