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“Confidence Comes From Preparation” — George Named to NBA All-Rookie Second Team

Ryan Kostecka
Digital Content Writer

It took Keyonte George precisely one game — the first game of the 2023-24 season — to believe he deserved to be in the league. His first NBA bucket came on an and-one, quickly followed by a deep three-pointer, showcasing his tantalizing offensive skillset. Altogether, George concluded his NBA debut with eight points, two rebounds, and two assists in 19 minutes.

"To be completely honest, I feel like I belong," he said that night. "For me, I think that confidence comes from the preparation. … I'm just super confident in my game. I just had a lot of fun out there. … It was a big-time blessing for me to appear in my first NBA game."

The confidence never wavered throughout George's rookie season, and for good reason. Announced on Monday afternoon, George was named to the NBA All-Rookie second team — becoming the second consecutive Jazzmen to be honored following Walker Kessler's first-team selection last year. 

"Phenomenal," was George's response when asked how his rookie season went. "Just taking it day by day. … The season didn't go too fast for me because I was just living in the moment. I feel like I took advantage of every day, whether it was a game day or off day. … It was a pretty long season. I like the baseline that I have for myself, I like the way that I competed day in and day out. … Now it's just about sharpening things up that I already know I'm good at."

Making the NBA All-Rookie First Team are Chet Holmgren (Oklahoma City), Jamie Jaquez Jr. (Miami), Brandon Miller (Charlotte), Brandin Podziemski (Golden State), and Rookie of the Year Victor Wembanyama (San Antonio). Joining George on the second team are GG Jackson II (Memphis), Dereck Lively II (Dallas), Amen Thompson (Houston), and Cason Wallace (Oklahoma City).

After being selected with the No. 16 overall pick in the 2023 NBA draft, it was widely hypothesized that Keyonte George — the second of Utah's three first-round picks — was the most likely to contribute immediately. Armed with a versatile skillset on offense, George's ability to put the ball in the hoop was considered the most pro-ready trait of the trio of picks. 

"Keyonte has probably the most diversified offensive skillset, maybe in the draft," Jazz GM Justin Zanik said back in June. "Keyonte's been doing it for a long time at a very, very high level. … He has all the shots, shots that some people can't ever learn. He's worked on his body, he has confidence as a scorer. … We've got to work on where he fits into the team, but right now, he's already an offensive weapon."

Simply put, George lived up to the hype. He averaged 13.0 points, 4.4 assists, and 2.8 rebounds on a 40/33/85 shooting split in 27.0 minutes per game. He played in 75 games, making 44 starts. His 75 games played ranked third among all rookies, while his 44 games started ranked fifth.

He finished second among rookies in total assists (336) and assists per game (4.4 apg). He finished fourth in total points among rookies (974), sixth in points per game (13.0 ppg), and fifth in total minutes played (2,023). He also became the fourth rookie in Jazz history to total at least 825 points and 280 assists in a season. (Donovan Mitchell, Deron Williams, and Trey Burke).

George scored 30+ three times this season, the third-most among rookies — but what set him apart was his performance against Steph Curry and the Warriors on Feb. 15. In 41 minutes, George dropped a career-high 33 points, while adding six assists, three steals, and two rebounds. He also shot 9-of-16 from three, tying the NBA rookie record for most threes in a game. 

"He has a really unique brain for a young player," head coach Will Hardy said of George. "I think that's where he's got a big advantage on everyone else because it's gonna, hopefully, accelerate his learning curve. Basketball is pattern recognition when it comes down to it on the offensive end, and the best players are the ones that know all the patterns and can recognize them quickly. … Keyonte has shown the ability to do some of that."

Heading into his first offseason, George knows plenty of work needs to be done. Rather than taking a broad approach to his game and working to be good at everything, he's showing maturity beyond his years by focusing on a few skills to become elite at them — a trait that Hardy believes will best serve his growth moving forward. 

"Since day one, everybody wanted me to be in the best shape possible, so that's the main thing," he said. "As far as my skillset, you can always add moves and make your handles shaper. … I just want to get an elite-level handle and be consistent throughout the whole season. I want to be that guy where if you leave me open, you know it's good. The main thing for me this summer is just being in shape and getting stronger, and everything else will follow."

George hopes his offseason growth is just a part of something great the Jazz are building. When asked what sort of players he would like to play next to — or what type of player he hopes the Jazz draft — he remained steadfast in his belief in the players on the current roster. 

"I feel like what we have right now is phenomenal pieces," he said. "The young core, the older guys that we have, we all got something we can bring to the table. … It's just about team camaraderie and coming together for the same common goal. Sacrificing something for the greater good of the team because when we win, everybody gonna eat. … It's about being able to sacrifice for however long it is to get to the greater goal."

"There's a lot of belief within our organization in Keyonte," Hardy added. "I think all of the guys on the team recognize Keyonte's ability. … I think everybody on the team has been really impressed with his maturity at his age, his understanding at his age. I think the team has received him well. … They've been very supportive of him."