SALT LAKE CITY — Just watching practice for a few minutes, you can tell how improved the Utah men's basketball team is over a year ago.
The Utes have pretty much done a complete makeover, replacing last year's players with nearly an entire new group.
The only players remaining from a year ago are senior center Jason Washburn, senior swingman Cedric Martin and Alex Mortensen, a walk-on guard from Springville.
Second-year coach Larry Krystkowiak has been pleased with his team after a week of official practice and a scrimmage on Saturday.
"They're really receptive," he said. "There's still a handful of guys who aren't grasping stuff, but for the most part we're making good progress."
Krystkowiak is most happy with the level of talent he sees out on the floor.
"We have depth at every position and our guys are getting after it," he said.
Last year, the Utes had just one player taller than 6-foot-7, but this year they've got five, including the 6-10 Washburn, 7-foot Dallin Bachynski, 6-10 Jeremy Olsen, 6-9 Renan Lenz and 6-10 transfer Harry Whitt, who played at Judge Memorial before going to Southern Illinois.
Washburn and Bachynski, a transfer from Southern Utah, will play the center position, while Lenz, a native of Brazil, and Olsen, who returned from an LDS mission in the spring, will mostly play the big forward spots. Whitt must sit out this year as a redshirt.
Besides the big men, the Utes have some players who can score, including Jarred DuBois, a three-year starter for Loyola Marymount; Glen Dean, a former Big Sky freshman of the year for Eastern Washington, and Aaron Dotson, who transferred from LSU.
Among a talented group of freshmen, Jordan Loveridge has shown he can post up inside and hit from long range, while Justin Seymour, a 6-3 guard out of Georgia, has been impressive so far in fall practice, particularly with his outside shooting.
Fans can get their first look at the Utes on Wednesday night for Runnin' Utes Night at the Huntsman Center at 7 p.m. Admission is free and after the scrimmage, fans will have the opportunity to get autographs from the players.
MORE RUNNIN': Krystkowiak plans to put the "run" back in the Runnin' Utes this year.
"We're going to run more, definitely," he said. "That starts with our ability to get defensive rebounds. We've got a bigger team and we're focusing on some rebounding. Before you can run, you've got to be able to get those. I'm hopeful we can do that and get out and put some heat on some people."
SUMMER TRIP: Krystkowiak credits the summer trip to Brazil with helping his team get off to a quick start this fall.
"It was tremendous team-building experience," he said. "I know when you start practice, it's like the first day of school — everyone's nervous and a little apprehensive — I think we got over that in the summer. Last week everyone came in and didn't have that knot in their stomach, like what are we doing? The trip was invaluable."
HANGING AROUND: David Foster's collegiate career ended last month with another injury to his foot, but the 7-foot-3 center is still a part of the team.
For the second year in a row, Foster is attending practice on a regular basis, sitting behind the scorer's table with his injured leg propped up on a chair.
At a practice earlier this week, Foster sat on the sidelines along with his wife, Britta, and their 5-month-old son, Daniel, whose expressions could occasionally be heard above the noise on the court.
"I just kind of hang out right now," Foster said. "When I can start to move around, I can help out at practices."2 comments on this story
Krystkowiak said Foster isn't required to come to practice to keep his scholarship or anything.
"That's just the kind of person that he is," Krystkowiak said. "He wants to be here and be around our team."
UTE NOTES: The Utes received a commitment from another big man in 6-11 Serbian Marko Kovacevic. He originally signed last spring with Montana out of Western Nebraska CC, but was ruled academically ineligible late last month and went back to junior college. … Dotson will miss 4-6 weeks after he suffered a stress fracture on his left foot. … Washburn has missed several practices with concussion-like symptoms after being hit in the head in a practice last week. … The Utes will play an exhibition game against Simon Fraser on Nov. 2 with their home-opener on Nov. 9 against Willamette.