The Runnin’ Utes held their annual intrasquad scrimmage on Wednesday evening. Several thousand people came up to the Huntsman Center to get their first glance at this year’s team.
Here is a quick breakdown of how each player looked, both good and bad.
Dallin Bachynski: He is the team’s best interior defender; both in terms of help defense and positioning against his own man in the post. On offense, he didn’t have many (if any) plays called for him. But he worked hard to set good screens and hit the offensive glass.
Ahmad Fields: The lefty showed a nice stroke on his jumper and the ability to get to the basket. He is still raw at both ends, but the potential is there to develop into a solid wing.
Renan Lenz: As has been reported, Lenz is more agile this year. He showed an aggressiveness in attacking the basket and in shooting the jumper. He didn’t hit as much as he would have liked, but based on his form and aggressiveness, I tend to lean towards it being one of those nights as opposed to a problem that will linger. Only time will tell.
Jordan Loveridge: Looked very in control on his drives to the basket. Showed a nice touch from the outside. I got the impression that the coaching staff wanted to give the other guys a chance to make plays. Even though Loveridge scored 20, it seemed he could have easily put in 10 more if he had been asked to do so. As good as he was as a freshman, he looks even better this year.
Kenneth Ogbe: The star of the show. Hit 8-9 field goals for 21 points. For long stretches, he was asked to bring the ball up the court and initiate the offense, which he did well. He looks like a guy who could play minutes this year.
Jeremy Olsen: He has a solid move set on the low block. He was able to work his way into some good looks and he finished. He had his shot blocked a few times simply because other guys got off their feet faster. The fact that he is so crafty in the low block will get Olsen onto the court for big minutes this year.
Princeton Onwas: When Onwas was in the game, he looked to attack the basket. He brings a unique element to the table in that his strength, athleticism and his quick first step make him hard to stop. More than one opposing big man will be taken out of the game due to foul trouble because of Onwas this year. Can he hit enough perimeter jumpers to keep defenses from sagging off of him? He will be tested in that regard.
Xan Ricketts: The walk-on from Sandy showed well. He reminds me a little of Mark Madsen. He just plays hard and goes after the ball. Obviously, he won’t crack the rotation, but he is an asset that could give Larry Krystkowiak a few minutes at a time should injuries/foul trouble necessitate it.
Brandon Taylor: Brandon is stronger this year and it showed. He took contact and finished at the rim. On several occasions, he went into the paint and boxed out a bigger player and grabbed the rebound. He also hit a nice step-back jumper.
Dakari Tucker: Dakari had a nice all around game. He looks more confident this year and it’s as if the game has slowed down for him. He hit his perimeter shots and ran well in transition.
Connor Van Brocklin: Connor had an off-night shooting, but that’s ok. His mere presence and the threat of his shooting gave everyone else more space. Don’t be surprised if you see him if the team hits an offensive lull against a zone defense this year.
Parker Van Dyke: Similar to Van Brocklin in that his mere presence opened up space across the floor. He had a nice move to get to the basket and score, showing he is more than just a shooter.
Delon Wright: He showed off the all-around game that he was known for coming in. What stuck out to me most was how well he defended the pick and roll. He knew exactly where to go and in a two minute span, he forced a turnover and a timeout when he trapped the ball handler. He is going to fill out the stat sheet most nights. But I think it’s the little things that will make him one of the better players in the conference before all is said and done for him at Utah.
From a team perspective, this is what I saw:
The Good: There are so many athletes on the perimeter. The offensive doldrums that plagued the team for long stretches last year should be less this year due to the number of guys who can get tot he basket and get to the line. I feel like there are many different types of lineups that the coaching staff can put on the floor to match the opponents and cause problems. Though it is a limited and not exactly solid sample, the offense as a whole seems better than last year. I also feel like the team is full of able and willing passers.
The Bad: It being early in the season there were some silly turnovers. Additionally, with so many new faces, chemistry is still developing. There were several occasions of moving screens that were the fault of both the guard and the big. Fortunately, these issues can work themselves out as guys get more familiar with each other. Finally, many guys on the team got into foul trouble by committing silly fouls. The bigs even got rung for a few Rafael Araujo-esque bumps out on the perimeter. There is no need for this. While the team has more depth this year than in recent memory, they will still need everyone to stay competitive.
If it was me calling the shots, my starting five would be Taylor, Wright, Tucker, Loveridge, and Lenz. I like Onwas, Ogbe, and Olsen coming off the bench with spot minutes for everyone else.
In summary, I left the Huntsman Center very encouraged. I feel like this team is headed in the right direction overall. While many questions remain, there is no doubt that the Runnin’ Utes are on an upward trajectory.