The team’s a lot different this year — just the attitude, the chemistry. —Utah senior forward David Collette
SAN FRANCISCO — There’s a different vibe within the University of Utah men’s basketball program. The Runnin’ Utes enter the upcoming campaign without three of last year’s top four scorers. The only regular starter back in the fold is senior forward David Collette.
“The team’s a lot different this year — just the attitude, the chemistry,” Collette said. “I think we have all the right guys this year, who have the right attitude on and off the court. That’s going to help a whole lot more.”
Utah is moving on after going 20-12 overall and 11-7 in Pac-12 play last season. The Utes do so without key contributors Kyle Kuzma, Lorenzo Bonam, Devon Daniels and JoJo Zamora.
A European tour during the summer helped ease the transition of adding several new faces to the program.
“It’s a lot more fun,” said junior guard Sedrick Barefield. “There’s no knock on last year’s team, but this team just has a light about us. If a guy is down, we’re picking each other up.”
Barefield added that it’s just a “good, tight-knit group.”
Utah enters the upcoming campaign seeking its fifth consecutive season with 20 or more wins. The Utes are also pursuing a fourth-straight Pac-12 finish of fourth place or higher.
“I’m really happy. We’re a long ways away from being where we need to be, but I’m pleased with the progress we’re making,” said head coach Larry Krystkowiak. “There are not many guys that are making the same mistakes.”
Krystkowiak is also seeing a lot of leadership. That includes newcomer Justin Bibbins, a graduate transfer from Long Beach State. Krystkowiak said Bibbins, like a lot of guys, has got it figured out.
Bibbins, Collette and Krystkowiak are representing the Utes at Thursday’s Pac-12 Media Day at the conference’s network studios.
The players, along with Barefield, have taken increasing stewardship of the program despite limited time in it. Collette and Barefield transferred in from Utah State and SMU, respectively. They began playing for the Utes last season after fall semester.
“I think that the coaches just expect a lot from us being here and having to lead by example,” Barefield said. “It also helps to have someone who has a lot of experience in Justin come in and just give even more leadership. So even though Justin got here, it feels like he’s been here a while.”
The annual “Night with the Runnin’ Utes” is set for Tuesday, 7 p.m., in the Huntsman Center. An exhibition game with Montana Tech is slated for Nov. 1 with the season opener against Prairie View A&M scheduled for Nov. 10.