Impressive on paper, the newest University of Utah Runnin’ Utes did not disappoint when they hit the shiny new floor at the Jon M. Huntsman Center Tuesday night.
You might have expected the standouts to be highly recruited freshmen Kyle Kuzma or Brekkot Chapman. Instead it was a young man from Borah High School in Boise, Idaho who looked the most polished of any newcomer. Point Guard Isaiah Wright controlled the reigns for his side when he was on the floor. He knocked down several outside shots and easily drove the lane to set up open looks for his teammates. I’m not sure this is much of a bold prediction, but he will push Brandon Taylor for big-time minutes this season.
Jacob Poetl also looked sharp. The true 7’0″ Center from Vienna, Austria moved extremely well for a big man. He got out in transition more than once in this scrimmage and was on the receiving end of a few sweet dimes for easy scores. He needs to add a little weight to his slender frame to avoid getting pushed around in PAC-12 play but, as far as talent goes, he may already be the best big man on campus.
I also liked what I saw out of Chris Reyes. The sophomore transfer from Citrus College looked to be the defensive force many expected when Coach K. signed him. He challenged several shots at the rim despite being just 6’7″. He also showed off a nice mid-range jumper to go along with his defensive prowess. While he may not be the offensive threat of Kyle Kuzma, or have the length of Brekkot Chapman, I expect Reyes to see significant minutes at Power Forward this season.
Speaking of Kyle Kuzma, we’ve seen a lot of press clippings about this young man’s progress since he joined the team early last season. He showed flashes of brilliance Tuesday night. You can tell he can handle the ball well for a man his size (6’9″, 210 lbs.) and may create a matchup problem for any other big who may try to guard him. He has range, as he can shoot the deep ball, but will also beat you off the dribble. Still, I didn’t see enough of his skillset to be as impressed as I was with I. Wright and Poetl.
Brekkot Chapman has a very nice frame for a true freshman out of Roy High School. The lefty didn’t get too many looks at the basket tonight which left me wanting more. He did contribute to the team shooting 95% from the charity stripe and seemed to have a nice stroke in knocking down several free throws. He did show some skill on the defensive end. I’m interested to see just how Coach K. will use the 6’8″, 200 lbs. Power Forward.
I’m not sure how much you can read into the play of the veterans on the roster. Delon Wright did what Delon Wright does. He jumped passing lanes leading to easy scores, crashed the boards nicely from his Point Guard position and also showed a bit more range than we saw at times last season. If the latter proves true, this team can be very dangerous.
Jordan Loveridge was an absolute beast on the offensive end Tuesday night. The teams combined for 102 total points between both 16-minute scrimmages. J-Lo had 27 of those. He knocked down several shots from beyond the perimeter but also attacked the rim. He tended to disappear in games last year so hopefully this is a very positive sign for the future.
After these two very talented players, the veterans didn’t really show me much. Dallin Bachynski was solid Tuesday but I felt like he was overshadowed a bit by Poetl. He did have some nice post moves and even picked Delon Wright’s pocket in the backcourt on one play leading to an easy two. Jeremy Olsen, in my opinion, is easily the third best big man on the team. He’s a little soft in the post and tends to force shots when the Utes do get it inside. Again, it will be interesting to see how many minutes he gets this season given the incoming talent.
Kenneth Ogbe and Dakarai Tucker also struggled Tuesday. We’re used to seeing both guys spread the floor and knock down perimeter shots. Ogbe hit a few but Tucker struggled. His defense may be what separates the two players, but, with the more depth at the Power Forward position and Loveridge getting most the minutes at Small Forward, I have a hard time finding minutes for these two players. Ogbe still may be the best pure shooter on the team.
Brandon Taylor played opposite Delon Wright in the first half and didn’t appear to be on the same level. You don’t have to look much further than the scoreboard to see who the better floor general is of the two. Wright’s team outscored Taylor’s team 35-17. You can’t put all of that on the junior Point Guard but I didn’t see much from him in the second half either. Again, if Isaiah Wright continues to play at a high level, his minutes could disappear.
If I had to predict the depth chart after what I saw Tuesday, this is what it would look like:
PG: Delon Wright
Brandon Taylor or Isaiah Wright
SG: Brandon Taylor or Isaiah Wright
SF: Jordan Loveridge
PF: Chris Reyes
C: Jacob Poetl
What were your thoughts on the Runnin’ Utes in Tuesday’s scrimmage? Do you agree or disagree with my depth chart? Which newcomer stood out to you?