Austin Dufault's hoops dream is to become the next Phil Jackson.
A smart and skilled 6-foot-9 forward from sparsely populated North Dakota who makes it to the NBA.
Jackson, best known for winning championships as the head coach of the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers, was picked by the New York Knicks (17th overall) in the 1967 NBA Draft after starring at Williston (N.D.) High School and the University of North Dakota.
Dufault, a four-year starter at Colorado from tiny Killdeer, N.D., understands his path to professional basketball could lead him just about anywhere on the planet.
On Monday the journey began with a pre-draft workout at the Pepsi Center for the Denver Nuggets.
"It's definitely my goal to play at the highest level possible, whether that's in Europe or China or wherever," Dufault said. "As far as the NBA is concerned, I know I probably won't get drafted. Right now my goal is to get into the summer league."
Dufault's agent, Ben Pensack, has received some positive feedback from teams about his CU client possibly getting invited to play in the NBA Summer League next month in Las Vegas.
Monday's session was attended by Nuggets head coach George Karl and general manager Masai Ujiri. The other players competing were Kansas guard Tyshawn Taylor, Kentucky guard Marquis Teague, Memphis guard Will Barton, Tennessee Tech guard Kevin Murphy and St. Bonaventure forward Andrew Nicholson.
Dufault matched up with Nicholson, a 6-10, 234-pound prospect who is projected as a first-round pick in the June 28 draft.
"Overall, I thought it went well," Dufault said. "I was giving up a couple of inches and some pounds, but that was the story of my career the last four years."
Dufault took his lumps playing out of position for the Buffs as a center in the rugged Big 12 before finally getting a chance to showcase his offensive skills as a forward last season in the Pac-12.
A strong NCAA Tournament performance against Baylor's NBA-caliber front line of Perry Jones, Quincy Miller and Quincy Acy certainly enhanced Dufault's resume.
But nothing quite prepares a college player for his first NBA audition.
"There were a little bit of nerves seeing George Karl and the general manager in the gym," Dufault said. "But it all happened so fast that I didn't have a lot of time to think about it. I got a call from my agent (Sunday) night and worked out (Monday) morning."
Dufault set a CU record for most games played in a career (136) and career conference games played (66). During the memorable march to the NCAA Tournament this spring he also became the 19th player in program history to finish his career with at least 1,000 points (1,076) and 500 rebounds (529).
As a senior, Dufault averaged 11.1 points and 4.4 rebounds while taking more of a leadership role with the departure of Alec Burks, Cory Higgins, Levi Knutson and Marcus Relphorde from the NIT Final Four team.
"The Nuggets front office people told me that Austin really brought a high level of intensity to the workout and that he performed well," Pensack said. "They really liked his fundamentals and work ethic and they were impressed with how well he can shoot the ball for a power forward. They seem to think that he has a very bright future in pro basketball, if not in the NBA than certainly in Europe."
Adam Pensack, who owns and operates the Pensack Sports Management Group, added:
"This was a great opportunity for Austin to show that he can play and compete with some of the top players in the country. We are very happy about the positive feedback we received concerning Austin's pre-draft workout with the Nuggets, which reinforced our belief that Austin has a very bright professional future ahead of him."
Dufault, who graduated from CU in May, plans to live and train in Boulder this summer. He has recently worked out with ex-Buffs Dwight Thorne (Greece) and Marcus Hall (Bulgaria), who are playing professionally overseas, as well as Tad Boyle's top-25 recruiting class.
"The new guys seem like they are a very mature group, especially for six freshmen," Dufault said. "They seem to be pretty level-headed kids that work hard."
Those same traits should help Dufault chase his dreams.