After losing in the championship round of the NIT Tournament to Penn State, the Runnin’ Utes went through many changes including graduating seniors and recruitment. The actual roster itself on paper is extremely talented, as many players are versatile and could provide everything that a team needs for success.
Freshman guard Naseem Gaskin was ranked a top 50 high-school prospect out of the state of California and averaged 14.5 points, 6.7 rebounds and 1.7 assists per game. As a 6’3″ guard, he rebounds the ball very well and can score the ball anywhere on the court as he averaged 55 percent from the field and 35.5 percent from downtown in his junior year.
Along with Gaskin is freshman forward Both Gach who led his high school team to a 24-4 record while averaging 24 points, eight rebounds and seven assists per game. He also led Austin High School to a 29-3 record in 2016 and also making it into the 3-A State Championship Game in 2017. He has proven to be a winner and a good overall player as he is a four-star recruit and a good wing player that any team could use nowadays in this era of basketball.
Vante Hendrix, a redshirt freshman, should be able to provide the team with good play as he is a good overall guard standing at 6’5″ and averaged 22.3 points, 8.7 rebounds, 5.6 assists and 2.7 steals per game as a senior. He led his high school team to a city championship in Los Angeles and has proven to be a versatile player due to his tremendous play not only offense, but on the defensive end.
Kevin Kremer is a 6’4″ freshman guard who averaged 19 points and nine rebounds per game as a senior and has the potential to be a starter later in the season. Due to the depth of the team, he will most likely be coming off the bench. He will definitely provide a spark off the bench as we can expect the Runnin’ Utes to play great team basketball when the starters need some rest.
Timmy Allen is a four-star recruit out of the state of Arizona and was labeled the top recruit from the state. Allen averaged 19.8 points, 7.9 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.0 steals per game as he was named first team all-region and the region’s all-defensive team. He was also labeled as a top-30 wing in the nation as Allen should be a key piece to build around for the future.
Riley Battin, a 6’9″ forward freshman, fits in perfectly with the Runnin’ Utes as he provides physicality and spacing. In this era of basketball, most elite big-men have the ability to space the floor out and shoot the ball well in any range. Battin provides that with his 52 percent shooting from downtown and 87 percent shooting from the free throw line. He also presents physicality in the paint as he averaged 12.4 rebounds and 1.4 blocks. Battin is a perfect player for the Runnin’ Utes’ system as he provides the complete package and necessities of a big-man nowadays.
Redshirt freshman Brooks King is a 6’3″ guard who probably won’t be starting to begin the season, but just like Kremer, he will be able to provide a great spark off the bench. In order for a team to compete, you need to have depth on your team and that’s exactly what King provides. King averaged 18.3 points while shooting 43 percent from downtown and 83 percent from the free throw line. King is an example of a great modern guard as any team would like to have him in their roster.
The last freshman the Runnin’ Utes have is Lahat Thioune. He’s a 6’10″ forward and was a physical presence in the paint as he averaged 14 points and eight rebounds in his senior year. He is one of the taller players on the roster and having a player with his size can’t a hurt a roster. Successful teams have the ability to switch up line-ups with small-ball play and have centers like Thioune in the game to be a defensive presence. It all depends on how the game is going and Thioune gives the flexibility and height for the team. It’s obvious that the Runnin’ Utes have plenty of freshman players who have a lot to prove, however, this doesn’t deny the fact that this is the most talented and versatile freshman class Coach Krystkowiak has worked with.
Sophomore Donnie Tillman averaged 20.3 minutes with Utes last year and averaged 7.8 points per game. He provided energy and spark when the team needed it as we should expect him to continue to improve.
Christian Popoola is a 6’4″ sophomore guard who averaged just 5.8 points per game but with his improvements with shooting and driving into the rim, expect him to be a key piece to the Runnin’ Utes bench unit this season.
Junior Charles Jones Jr. is a 6’2″ guard with physical presence due to him weighing at 200 pounds. He averaged 19.7 points per game last season and averaged 24.2 points per game in the National Tournament. With a point guard of his size, he will be able to have a physical presence and cause some trouble and turnovers for the opposing point guards.
Junior Beau Rydalch didn’t have many minutes these past few seasons but did put up some good production in the minutes he had. In just 2.8 minutes per game last season, he averaged 2 rebounds, 1 assist, and 1 block. He’s a 6’6″ guard with physical presence and height as he could provide some valuable minutes in crucial moments of the game.
Standing at 7’0″ is junior Brandon Morley, who averaged 18.3 points and 10.7 rebounds per game in 2013-2014 and 10.6 points and 5.1 rebounds per game in 2014-2015. Coming off his two-year mission in Barcelona, Morley will provide rim protection with his height and physicality in the paint. He is the definition of a true center as every team would enjoy utilizing one in their roster for flexibility.
Junior Jayce Johnson came off the bench for 30 games last year and totaled 164 points, 163 rebounds, and 28 blocked shots. Since Johnson stands at 7’0″, he will be able to make a threat along with Morley for some fantastic rim protection. Expect this to be implemented and experimented throughout the season.
Junior Marc Reininger, 6’9″, averaged just three minutes per game last season, but rebounded the ball well with the amount of time given.
Senior Sedrick Barefield is a 6’2” guard who can score the ball at will. He’ll probably be in the starting line-up for a good amount of the season as he had some big performances last year, like scoring 26 points against Arizona and draining six three-pointers against Arizona and Penn State.
Senior Parker Van Dyke played all 35 games last year and posted double-digit scoring efforts in three games. Expect an improvement from Van Dyke as he will provide a veteran presence for the team which will help develop these younger players.
Standing at 7’0” is senior Novak Topalovic. He is an experienced big-man and can provide tremendous rim-protection with his stat-line of 10.7 points and 6.8 rebounds per game. Expect him to an important rule as he will help the younger big-men develop their game.
It’s easy to say that this Runnin’ Utes roster is not experienced as the roster contains eight freshman, two sophomores, five juniors, and three seniors. However, that shouldn’t stop the Utes to taking their team to another level. Their goal has been winning at least 20 games per season, but now the goal is to qualify for the March Madness Tournament.
With the combination of veterans and young players who are hungry to prove themselves, the Utes could become one of the power-house teams in the Pac-12. The culture has changed in the locker room as the Utes have the means to compete in the division and have the mindset that they can beat any team.