Former Utah Valley standout Ronnie Price has gone a long way. What once was the McKay Center and New Jersey Tech are now Energy Solutions Arena and the World- Champion San Antonio Spurs.
Price has quickly gone from being buried on the Jazz bench to becoming one of their most tenacious defenders and a spark plug off the bench. Coach Jerry Sloan even recently called on him to start in place of the injured Ronnie Brewer.
With Brewer out of the lineup for three games, Price stepped into the starting roll, and the Jazz didn’t miss a beat in wins over the Washington Wizards, Minnesota Timberwolves and San Antonio Spurs.
"It’s good for him to get minutes," Jazz point guard Deron Williams said. "He’s given us a lot of energy — scored the ball well. He’s got a great all-around game."
In those starts, his first as a member of the Jazz, Price found his range, knocking down the outside shot, including big three-pointers in a lopsided win over the Spurs. He impacted on both sides of the floor, creating turnovers and diving to the deck after loose balls.
However, the ever-humble shooting guard denies any credit, choosing instead to remind others of the job Brewer has done this season.
"Ronnie Brewer is having a great year," Price said. "I’m just trying not to make mistakes and keep things flowing."
Nevertheless, don’t mistake his humble demeanor for a lack of confidence.
"If you don’t have confidence, you might as well pack it up," Price said. "I have confidence, more than people might expect, but I keep it in."
Coming from a little-known school, Price has flown under the radar, and could easily find himself intimidated by the likes of LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and other NBA superstars.
Instead, Price has proven again and again that he belongs on the court with the best players in the world.
"My rookie year was the first for me to see all the guys, my second year to actually be on the floor with guys," Price said. "Then this year, I’m coming after you."
On a team that has seen players make a career out of backing up All-Star caliber point guards, Price may have found his niche. On Utah’s NBA finals teams of the late ’90s, reserve point guard Howard Eisley filled in as more than capable backup for future Hall-of-Famer John Stockton.
As the Jazz have returned to their winning ways, Price appears to be the man for the job, solidifying his role as Williams’s backup this season.
"When you’re winning," Price says. "It makes everything a lot better."
As the playoffs near for the Jazz, Price will see his first post-season action as an NBA player.
"When he’s called on in certain situations," Williams said, "he’ll be ready."
While Price has always had confidence in himself, his teammates and coaches now know they can count on the former Wolverine.