Utah Utes basketball: Runnin' Utes show well in scrimmage

Published: Tuesday, Oct. 26 2010 11:49 p.m. MDT

Josh Watkins walks with assistant coach Stan Johnson during the University of Utah men's basketball opening scrimmage on Tuesday.

Tom Smart, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — University of Utah basketball fans got their first look at this year's Ute men's basketball team during a scrimmage that was open to the public Tuesday night at the Huntsman Center.

What they saw was a lot of new faces on a team that is more athletic than squads in the past, but might need to work on its shooting.

After practicing for the first half hour, the Utes played two 10-minute halves, with the Red team, consisting of the most likely starters and top reserves, easily defeating the White team 51-30.

"I saw glimpses of what we can be this year," said coach Jim Boylen. "We showed what we can be with athleticism, length and playing the open court."

Two likely starters sat out of the scrimmage with injuries. Center David Foster is suffering from tendinitis in his knee, while Jay Watkins, the only senior on the team, has a sore back.

Perhaps the most impressive player on the court was Will Clyburn, a 6-7 wing player from Marshalltown (Iowa) CC, who scored 13 points on 6-of-7 shooting, including several dunks. He also had five rebounds, two blocks and a steal.

Clyburn is a likely starter at a wing position along with another JC transfer Josh Watkins, who scored 10 points and dished out six assists for the Red team. Shawn Glover, who has been shooting 55 percent in practice scrimmages so far this fall, made 4-of-5 shots for 11 points and Jason Washburn scored 10.

The White team was led by JC transfer guard Chris Kupets, who scored 15 points, mostly on drives to the basket. Chris Hines played for both teams and totaled 11 points.

Boylen has back six players from last year and welcomes nine new players, including a pair of walk-ons, who are likely to redshirt.

"Our talent level has improved, our depth has improved and our focus has been very good," Boylen said. "Obviously at this time of the season, everybody's outlook is bright. I like the players we have and how we practice."

Boylen said each of his returning players, five of whom started at least two games last year, have improved considerably.

"I've seen more improvement in our six core guys, more so than I've ever been here," he said, noting that they've each gained weight, have gotten stronger and improved their skills.

The six returnees include Foster, Glover, Washburn, Hines, Jay Watkins and Jace Tavita.

Shooting is one worry for Utah going into the season and it showed Tuesday night as the Utes sank just 5-of-21 3-pointers overall. Hines was the best shooter, making 3-of-5 from long range.

"That will be a concern all year," Boylen said of his team's outside shooting.

The Utes showed off a new style of play with more pressure defense and fast-break basketball.

"I'm excited because we're going to change our style a little bit and get a more up-tempo style," Boylen said. "We've always wanted to be the Runnin' Utes and we're going to try to improve on that. We also have a chance to be special defensively because of our length and our athleticism."

The Utes will play an exhibition game against Adams State on Nov. 5 and open the regular season Nov. 12 against Grand Canyon at the Huntsman Center.

e-mail: sor@desnews.com

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