Travels with Ricky: Johns and the Runnin’ Utes get ready for Whitman

By and

With 18 practices under their belt, the Runnin’ Utes are ready to kick off the season against someone other than themselves.

They get that chance Saturday at 5 p.m. when Whitman College visits the Huntsman Center for the first exhibition game of the year.

“It’s going to be good to play against other people instead of scrimmaging in practice and beating each other up,” shooting guard Ricky Johns said.

Johns is among a handful of Utes who will get their first experience-other than Night with the Utes-playing in front of the Huntsman Center crowd.

The junior guard has been acclimating himself to the Utah environment after transferring from Monroe College in the Bronx, N.Y. So far it has been an interesting experience.

“It’s been a slow transition,” Johns said. “The Bronx is really fast paced, and Salt Lake is really slow, calm and relaxed. I like the fast paced better, but I do like it here.”

Johns said he really likes the chance to get on the floor early at the U.

With six players gone from last year’s team, Johns and others will get ample opportunity to play right away.

“All the new faces that are here, that’s a situation that they all wanted to get into,” Johns said. “If it’s possible, I’d like playing time early, but it doesn’t really matter to me as long as we win and play hard.”

Ute head coach Ray Giacoletti has plans for Johns to enter the rotation right away and is impressed with his all-around game.

“Ricky’s done a good job,” Giacoletti said. “He plays extremely hard. He can really get out, defend and shoot the basketball.”

While he makes sure his players know that no lineup spot is safe, Giacoletti has settled on a starting lineup for the Whitman exhibition.

Tim Drisdom and Johnnie Bryant will start in the backcourt, with Chris Jackson at center and Bryant Markson and Shaun Green manning the forward spots.

Giacoletti said he hopes to go 10-deep as the Utes figure to substitute liberally against the Division III Missionaries.

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