Utes getting ready for first game of the basketball season

It may only be an exhibition, but new Ute coach Ray Giacoletti knows that he needs to get off to a good start when the Utes play host to Carroll College on Saturday.

“We are treating this like a normal game,” Giacoletti said. “We’ll try some different looks and try to stay healthy.”

Health will be a concern for the Utes, as they are working in some young inexperienced players.

Outside the starting five, the only upperclassman on scholarship is junior center Chris Jackson. Jackson is coming off a nagging back injury, but insists it won’t be a problem.

Giacoletti is anxious to get started and win over the skeptical fan base. However, he’s already won over one of his biggest weapons.

“He’s been real welcoming,” sophomore center Andrew Bogut said. “This offense fits me much better and I am much more confident than last year at this time.”

Some of Bogut’s newfound confidence comes from a successful run playing for Australia’s Olympic team, but he is also more comfortable in Giacoletti’s up-tempo style of play.

“I like how we get up and down the floor more,” Bogut said.

Bogut will start at center for the Utes on Saturday, giving them an automatic advantage over smaller teams. He has added bulk to his once-skinny frame, now standing 7 feet even and weighing in at 240 lbs.

He will be joined in the starting lineup by some familiar faces.

While normal starter Tim Drisdom is out with a sprained ankle, Marc Jackson, the only senior on the team, will replace him. Jackson returns to the Utes after taking a year off. The 2002 MWC sixth man of the year will give a needed offensive spark.

Junior Richard Cheney starts at shooting guard and will also see time at small forward. Cheney was a reliable threat for the Utes last season, averaging 9.5 points and 4.2 rebounds. His shooting has improved as his college career has progressed.

The consistently enigmatic Bryant Markson gets the start at small forward. The 6 foot 6 inch junior is possibly the most athletically gifted Ute, but has yet to find consistent success.

Some suggest he will thrive outside of the methodical Rick Majerus offense.

Rounding out the starting lineup for game one is another youngster, Jonas Langvad. The Dane has impressed Giacoletti with his pre-season work ethic, and has bulked up to 230 lbs. Viewed as a strong shooter, Langvad will be under scrutiny to show a good all-around game.

Giacoletti is glad to be playing a real college to open up the season, a difference from previous years where traveling professional teams would play the Utes. “It will feel like a real game,” Giacoletti said. “(Carroll) has been practicing together for months and will be a good test for us.”

Tip off is slated for 4 on Saturday afternoon, rescheduled from later in the evening to accommodate fans who want to attend the 7:45 p.m. Utah football game.

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