LOS ANGELES — Twas the night before the USC game and Utah junior Delon Wright was among 20 or so family members and friends watching his older brother Dorell of the Portland Trail Blazers play in the Staples Center against the Los Angeles Clippers.
On Thursday, most of the entourage was at the nearby Galen Center to watch Delon. An even bigger gathering is expected Saturday at UCLA.
Before taking the court against the Trojans, Delon acknowledged that he was really excited to finally play a game in Los Angeles again. It had been three years since he had done so.
“It’s going to be real fun,” he noted. “Hopefully, we can get a win to top it off.”
Utah guard Brandon Taylor, who along with Wright and teammate Dakarai Tucker celebrated a homecoming to the Los Angeles area, spent some time Wednesday visiting with family and a close friend. He even managed to “chill” with his dog for a little bit.
“It’s a business trip,” Taylor said. “But at the same time it’s just fun to come back here and play in front of my family and friends.”
It all sat well with Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak, who went out recruiting in the area along with his staff Wednesday night.
“I made the assumption that guys are going to get out and catch up with friends and family,” he said. “It’s a fun opportunity for four days. It’s work first with what we’ve got going, but there’s ample time for them to enjoy themselves and enjoy the sun and enjoy hanging out with their people.”
It’s part of an overall philosophy that Krystkowiak likes to employ.
“I think you can play hard and work hard,” he said. “I try to instill in these guys that whatever it is you’re doing, you’re doing it full-steam ahead.”
TRAFFIC JAMMERS: The Utes made quite a stir on busy Figueroa Street in downtown L.A. earlier in the day. As their bus pulled away from the Galen Center after shootaround, it high-centered on the curb and blocked a couple of lanes of traffic for approximately 40 minutes. Apparently, a hydraulic lift did not fully engage once the team’s luggage was loaded.
While the problem was diagnosed and repaired, the players seized the opportunity to soak up the sun — weather conditions were a comfortable 79 degrees — while stretching out on some adjacent grass.
EXTRA STUFF: The win was Krystkowiak’s 80th as a college coach, including stints at Utah and Montana. He has 70 losses. ... USC coach Andy Enfield shook up his starting lineup against Utah. Center D. J. Haley and guard Brendyn Taylor made their first starts of the season, while forward Strahinj Gavrilovic had his second. ... The all-time series between Utah and USC is now knotted at 17-17. The Utes have won the last three meetings against the Trojans.