There’s plenty ahead for all those kids and I’m certain they’re going to be super successful with what they do. I’m proud of their time here and the whole thing. So it’s a pretty neat weekend. —Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak, on the Utes' seniors
SALT LAKE CITY — Before the Utah Utes take on Colorado Saturday in the Huntsman Center, the program will pay tribute to five players on “Senior Night.” The honorees include Gabe Bealer, Justin Bibbins, David Collette, Jake Connor and Tyler Rawson.
As important as the game is in jockeying for a high seed at next week’s Pac-12 Tournament in Las Vegas, Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak acknowledged there’s an emotional facet to the weekend.
“But certainly you have to put that behind you right when the tip starts and get after it,” he said. “And then you’re hopeful that postgame, maybe, the guys can enjoy some time with the fans and families and have a little celebration on the court.”
The culmination of a senior class, Krystkowiak continued, is never the same. This year’s class features five guys who have spent different amounts of time with the Utes. Four transferred into the program.
“So everybody’s got a different story to tell,” Krystkowiak said. “But, yeah, it’s the end of something that’s pretty cool. There’s an emotional time period and hopefully we’ll put that behind us and get ready to play ball for 40 minutes, and then enjoy a little bit more emotion.”
Krystkowiak noted that it’s a lifetime deal, like a graduation or whatever the case may be. It’s the friendships and memories and all that kind of stuff that is far more important.
“There’s plenty ahead for all those kids and I’m certain they’re going to be super successful with what they do,” Krystkowiak said. “I’m proud of their time here and the whole thing. So it’s a pretty neat weekend.”
Despite Connor being the only Senior Night honoree to have played his entire college career at Utah, Krystkowiak said there’s no question each is considered a Ute.
The players agree.
“Oh yeah. Always and forever,” Collette said.
Bibbins explained that being a Ute means much more than just playing basketball.
“We all have those attributes and that mindset and that drive,” he said. “So we’re happy to be Utes.”
Colorado (16-13, 8-9)
at Utah (18-10, 10-7)
Saturday, 5 p.m.
Radio: ESPN 700AM
And they’re pleased to leave the program that way.
“I think there’s a great amount of faith and trust from each of them in how we’re doing our business,” said Krystkowiak, who added that they’re all great kids.
Plus, the seniors have a pretty strong will to finish things off on a high note. They’re locked in with a sense of urgency.
“Just don’t let a day go by. That’s kind of the theme for all the seniors and it’s all coming to a head,” Krystkowiak said.
• High school: Antelope HS (Sacramento, California)
• College: City College of San Francisco
• At Utah: Appeared in 70 games, with 25 starts. Averaging 4.6 points, 1.8 rebounds and 0.4 assists.
Bealer attended the same junior college as former Utah star Delon Wright. His coach, Justin Labagh, spoke highly of the program and thought it would be a good fit for Bealer.
• Favorite memory: “I would probably say over this last summer when we went on our foreign trip. We visited the Eiffel Tower. That was pretty fun.”
• High school: Bishop Montgomery HS (Torrance, California)
• College: Long Beach State
• At Utah: Started all 28 games he has played. Averaging 14 points, 5.0 assists and 2.9 rebounds. Shooting 50 percent from the field and 44 percent from 3-point range.
Bibbins began his collegiate career at Long Beach State, earning All-Big West honors twice before earning his degree in sociology. He then opted to join the Utes as a graduate transfer.
“I took my visit here and just fell in love with Utah and the rest is history,” Bibbins said.
• Favorite memory: Winning at Arizona State 80-77 in overtime on Jan. 25 despite fouling out.
“Sedrick (Barefield) hit that big shot,” Bibbins said. “So it was a fun time.”
• High school: Murray
• College: Utah State
• At Utah: Has started all 49 games played. Averaging 13.3 points, 5.0 rebounds and 1.1 assists. Has made 61.1 percent of his shots.
Collette joked that he ended up at Utah after a giant scandal, FBI investigations, NCAA investigations.
“No, it was just trying to find a better fit for me where I could push my limits and I felt like it was here,” said Collette, who earned All-Mountain West honors while playing for Utah State in 2014-15.
• Favorite memory: “There’s too many. I think probably getting a double road sweep this year was one of the best memories,” Collette said. “First team to do it in the Pac-12. I thought that was pretty cool.”
• High school: Highland
• At Utah: Has seen action in 33 games. Averaging 1.8 points, 0.5 rebounds and 0.2 assists.
The redshirt junior, who is graduating this spring and weighing his options about playing elsewhere as a graduate transfer, followed in his father’s footsteps in playing for the Utes. Jake grew up around the program as dad, Tommy, has also served as a coach for several years.
“I’ve always been a Ute,” Connor said. “It was a good decision out of high school to come up here.”
• Favorite memory: Utah’s 63-57 loss to Duke in the Sweet Sixteen on his birthday — March 27, 2015.
“That’s definitely my favorite memory, specifically because we played on my birthday,” Connor said. “We ended up losing the game, obviously, but it was a really cool experience to play in that big of a setting.”
• High school: American Fork
• Colleges: Southern Utah/Salt Lake Community College
• At Utah: Played in 60 games with 36 starts. Averaging 8.3 points, 5.1 rebounds and 2.8 assists. Shooting 56.1 percent from the field.
After helping lead SLCC to a national championship, Rawson accepted a scholarship offer from Utah. Rawson said he did so because of the “great possibilities that the coaches gave for me.” Rawson appreciated that the Utah coaches had kept an eye on him throughout his career, dating back to high school.
• Favorite memory: “I really enjoyed the Europe trip this last summer. It was a trip of a lifetime. ... All the things we were able to do over there was awesome.”
As far as games, Rawson noted the 66-56 win at Oregon on Dec. 29.
“Doing it at their place was a lot of fun,” he said.
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