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Looking forward: Utah Basketball preview 2018-19

Porter Larsen takes an early look at the 2018-19 Runnin' Utes

With a re-tooled roster and a wave of new talent, the Runnin’ Utes we saw make an NIT title run in 2018 will look a whole lot different come November, but head coach Larry Krystowiak insists that Utah is reloading – not rebuilding. Let’s take a look at the weapons Krystowiak will have in his arsenal this fall. 

 – The Departed – 

Senior guard Justin Bibbins(Graduate) 

Sophomore guard Kolbe Caldwell(Transfer) 

Senior guard Jake Connor(Graduate Transfer) 

RS-Freshman forward Chris Seeley(Transfer) 

Senior center David Collette(Graduate)

Senior forward Tyler Rawson(Graduate) 

Senior guard Gabe Bealer(Graduate) 

Sophomore center Jakob Jokl(Requested Release) 

Four of those guys, Bealer, Bibbins, Rawson and Collette, were major contributors on last year’s squad – the latter three being full-time starters. Head Coach Larry Krystowiak will look to an incoming class — a class that some are calling his most talented yet — to fill the void left behind by the seniors. 

        “I really like the guys we’ve got coming in,” Krystowiak said. “We have a good     blend of incoming talent and returning veterans. We still have to figure out some roles and positional things, but I can’t wait to get it started.”

– New Faces –

Lahat Thioune – Freshman (6’10” / 210 / C) 

Thioune is a very raw talent with a lot of room to develop as a big man, something Krystowiak has excelled at in his time at the U. Lahat is a skilled shot-blocker and rebounder who can run the floor well for his size. With depth issues in the Utes front court, don’t be surprised to see him getting minutes as a freshman. 

Riley Battin – Freshman (6’9” / 220 / F)

One of the more decorated high school players in Southern California history, Battin dominated Ventura County and the Coastal Canyon League for the last four years – he’s the division’s all-time leader in both points and rebounds. The versatile and polished four man out of Oak Park HS is expected to be an immediate contributor in Salt Lake City. 

Naseem Gaskin – Freshman (6’3” / 175 / G)

A combo guard from Oakland, Gaskin brings an exciting blend of toughness and athleticism to the Huntsman Center. The Utes will have some stiff competition for playing time at guard, but that hasn’t deterred Gaskin. 

                       “The coaching staff is very straightforward,” Gaskin said. “They didn’t  promise me anything. When I go in I feel like I have a good opportunity to compete for a spot and play some minutes.”

Charles Jones Jr. – Junior (6’2” / 200 / G) 

Probably the most anticipated newcomer for the Utes, Jones Jr. was named the NJCAA Player of the Year in 2017-18 after leading Southern Idaho to the national title game. Helping ease the loss of Justin Bibbins, Jones Jr. can step in and provide backcourt reliability instantaneously. A high volume scorer, Jones Jr. grabbed the attention of national media when he averaged 24.5 points-per-game in the NJCAA postseason. 

Timmy Allen – Freshman (6’6” / 210 / G/F)

The four-star recruit and No. 1 ranked player in the state of Arizona brings talent and drive to the program. A hard-nosed wing defender, motivated rebounder and talented ‘bucket-getter,’ Allen will be an impact piece from the start. 

Novak Topolavic – Senior (7’0” / 230 / C) 

With the departure of David Collette, the Utes searched for size in this recruiting class — they think they’ve found it in the Serbian 7-footer out of Idaho State. 

             “We lost some size in our front court,” Krystowiak said. “We certainly needed some more beef, and I think Novak is a perfect fit. He’s about as solid as they come.” 

The redshirt senior started in all 32 of the Bengals games in 2017-18, averaging 10 points and 6 rebounds per-contest. 

– Returning – 

The Runnin’ Utes lost a lot of production from last year, but still bring back an array of talent. 

Senior guard Sedrick Barefield(6’2” / Sr. / G) will likely return after averaging 12.0 points-per-game last season, a campaign that he strengthened during the homestretch and in the postseason. Barefield will carry a healthy scoring load and will be expected to spend some time at the one. 

Donnie Tillman(6’7” / So. / F) emerged as a solid piece last season, and will have a heavier workload in 2018-19. A versatile defender with an evolving offensive game, the sophomore forward will play a vital role on both ends of the floor. 

Parker Van Dyke(6’3” / Sr. / G) brings back his hot shooting and playmaking, and is another guy Krystowiak has mentioned in regards to filling the point guard void.

The energetic 7-footer Jayce Johnson(7’0” / Jr. / C) returns for his junior season. A good defender and active rebounder, Johnson will surely spend this offseason polishing his offensive repertoire. 

Vante Hendrix(formerly Devante Doutrive – 6’5’’/190/G), Beau Rydalch(6’6’’/210/G), Christian Popoola(6’4’’/190/G), Nate Duda(6’5’’/190/G), Brooks King(6’3’’/200/G) and Marc Reininger(6’9’’/220/F) are also set to return and bolster the depth for the Utes. 

For more Utes and local coverage, follow Porter on twitter @Larsen_ESPN.


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