That darn third foul call against Duke probably cost Utah fans at least another 40 minutes with Delon Wright. Now that Delon has been crowned the best college point guard in college basketball, his stock is high and he’s moving on the the NBA.
Losing a player of this caliber isn’t easy to recover from, but here are three reasons the Utes will be just as successful next year.
1. No Identity Change
This is a two part answer. Let’s start with the people who actually win the games–the players. Yes, a slew of players will be returning. However, one specific player will hold the key: Brandon Taylor. Taylor embodies what this Utah program has been rebuilt on, toughness and defense. Taylor will be back to push this team to return to the success of last season. It also helps that there are so many other returning players coming back. The team next season will know what to expect and how to play.
The biggest part of keeping the same identity is keeping the coaching staff. Larry Krystkowiak has signed the contract extension until 2023 (that is one long contract). With this contract, Coach Krystkowiak has been given a chance to build a program. It appears he is at the point of proving that the Utes are back to being a power out west. Another big save on the coaching staff is that Coach Connor didn’t leave. I am grateful that whatever talks may or may not have been happening with USU broke down for whatever reason. Either way, Connor has been a huge part of this rebuild with his basketball IQ and recruiting skills.
2. Another Delon is in the works
Utah is bringing in another guard from the City College of San Francisco, Gabe Bealer. Now, I know this may be a stretch, but take a look.
Delon was a 6’5″ guard who averaged 6 rebounds per game at CCSF. Gabe is a 6’6″ guard who averaged 6 rebound per game. Okay, that is the best I have. Delon is a point guard, Gabe is a shooting guard. But there are still reasons to be excited. Bealer is a better shooter than Delon, and he is also a “high flier” per his coach at CCSF (SLTrib). I am excited about the high flying part. Something the Utes missed last season was the athleticism of Princeton Onwas. Here’s to hoping Bealer can feel that role.
3. Depth, Depth, Depth
If the Utes have a tough time getting someone to step up to a starting guard role, they have plenty of guards to cycle through. The guard depth returning includes Isaiah Wright, Kenneth Ogbe, Brandon Taylor, and Dakarai Tucker. Each player can shoot from range pretty well. Each player has a good handle. But who will start and play the bulk of the minutes? The obvious answer seems to be Taylor. The other starting guard is the real question.
If Coach Krystkowiak is looking for a true point guard type, Isaiah Wright is the answer. Wright has a skill for feeding the ball to teammates with open shots. This year he made some mistakes, but the kid was a freshman. If the Utes go with a combo guard type then the argument is between Ogbe and Tucker. I would put my money on Ogbe. I believe he has a better skill set to distribute the ball along with scoring. I also like Tucker with the 6th man role he filled during March Madness.
Losing a player of Delon’s quality is tough. Expectations for the Runnin’ Utes will continue to be high, and Utah fans have plenty of reason to believe guard play with be a strength again. With the team’s depth at the guard position, new blood coming in, and a consistent identity, I am not worried.
If those reasons don’t do it for you, how about this?