Runnin’ hoops

There is always some acclimation to be done at the start of a new basketball season. But for the Runnin’ Utes, “some acclimation” is a big understatement this year.

With new U Coach Ray Giacoletti bringing his fast-paced game plan to Utah, the players are learning on the fly.

“You’re going to see a lot more running,” junior Richard Cheney said. “I love the fast-paced offense when we can do it, but I can do the set offense too.”

Saturday marked the first official practice of the season, and the chemistry is good thus far between the players and the new coach. “I’ve grown to love and trust him,” junior Tim Drisdom said.

Giacoletti has quickly gotten involved in the players’ lives, even driving to West Valley to watch Drisdom play the organ at a Sunday church service.

However, it’s Giacoletti’s on-the-court ways that caught the eye of the Utes’ biggest star. “I was thinking about leaving,” sophomore Andrew Bogut said. “But I watched the tape of Eastern Washington (Giacoletti’s former coaching assignment) and thought we could be better than last year. I can do a lot more in this offense.”

Bogut pointed to his summer on the Australian Olympic team as a big boost to his game. “I got to play against the best,” he said. “I learned a lot going up against those guys. Playing Tim Duncan was a good experience, even when he dunked over me.”

While there were several new faces, the spotlight shined brightest on somebody who is a familiar face.

When Marc Jackson abruptly quit the program two seasons ago, many Ute fans thought they had seen the end of the sparkplug guard. But once Rick Majerus left, Jackson felt the time was right to make a return to the Utes.

“I feel very fortunate,” Jackson said. “I have a great relationship with the team, and whatever I have to do, I’ll do it.”

If Drisdom is leery of the competition that Jackson brings, he isn’t showing it. “We’ve played together before. He’s a good player and it’s good for both of us,” he said.

On the injury front, Utah received good news from center Chris Jackson, whose back problems seems to have completely healed. “It’s not even an injury anymore,” Jackson said. “I feel 100 percent when I’m on the court. It just gets a little sore afterward sometimes.”

Optimism is running high around the Huntsman Center. Drisdom, for one, isn’t allowing any talk in his head about a letdown with the new coach. “People may think we are rebuilding, but we aren’t going to take any steps back,” he said. “I’m really excited.”

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