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Utah MBB put their versatility on display at ‘Night with the Utes’

SALT LAKE CITY — The 2018-19 Runnin’ Utes are looking to reload — rather than rebuild — after losing three of their top four scorers from last season. They showcased their skill and put their versatility on display at Wednesday’s ‘Night with the Utes.’

The departure of PG Justin Bibbins, F Tyler Rawson and C David Collette leaves a pretty big void for the Utes on both ends of the floor. Head coach Larry Krystowiak hopes to bridge the gap with a by-committee approach.

“Losing scoring and losing leadership are both really tough,” Krystowiak said. “I feel like we have quite a few guys that are really close to taking that next step. We have youth and potential and I like where we’re at. Still plenty of work to be done, but I like where we’re at.”

Looking to lead the charge is Sedrick Barefield, the Utes leading returning scorer at 12 points-per-game. He’ll likely be asked to carry a heavier load in 2018-19, but that doesn’t necessarily mean just taking more shots.

“Sedrick is a scorer and we definitely don’t want him to shy away from that,” Krystowiak said. “But losing [Bibbins] is big for us. We’ll need other guys to get us into our offensive sets and facilitate a little more. I think Sed can do a lot of that.”

College of Southern Idaho transfer Charles Jones Jr. brings in more backcourt depth for Utah. The 2018 NJCAA National Player of the Year is a ‘spark plug’ type guy. He can score points in a hurry and his playmaking ability is second to none. He’ll be asked to do a lot for the Utes early on in his time on the hill.

Parker Van Dyke returns to the Utes after a stellar finish to his junior season. The hometown sharpshooter will have a near-green light from the perimeter from Coach K.

Sophomore Donnie Tillman runs it back after an impressive freshman season. Tillman, a 6-foot-7 forward out of Detroit, showed signs of stardom in 2017-18 and looks to have extended the range on his jumper. A versatile defender and an ever-improving scorer, Tillman should be a real contributor for Utah in the coming season.

7-footer Jayce Johnson returns after a sophomore season where he saw plenty of floor time. A true ‘motor guy’ for the Utes, Johnson lays it all out on the court. His high energy rebounding and rim protection will be a huge plus as long as his offseason foot injury heals properly. His offensive game is raw, but with some more Coach K grooming, could become a real weapon for him near the rim.

Senior transfer-student and fellow 7-footer Novak Topalovic should add some needed depth at the center position. The big Serbian averaged double-figures during both his seasons at Idaho State and could add a presence in the low post, something the Utes will definitely be looking for after losing David Collette.

It doesn’t end there, Coach K has been consistently praising his incoming freshman and says that he’s not sure if he has had this much talent in one freshman bunch before. Vante Hendrix, Both Gach, Timmy Allen, Riley Battin, Lahat Thioune, Naseem Gaskin and Kevin Kremer round out the newcomers. Thioune, however, may be in a redshirt situation due to injury.

Team inexperience also opens up possible playing opportunities from depth pieces like Beau Rydalch, Christian Popoola, Brooks King, Brandon Morley and Marc Reininger.

There are still a lot of questions to be answered with this squad, but athleticism isn’t one of them. The boys showed off in the pregame dunk contest.

The Runnin’ Utes tip-off the 2018-19 season on Nov. 1 with an exhibition matchup against College of Idaho. Live coverage and analysis can be found all season long on ESPN700 and ESPN700sports.com!

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