Utah showcases talent in scrimmage

By Joseph Simmons , Staff Writer

With basketball season ready to get started, the Runnin’ Utes gave fans their first show with an open scrimmage Wednesday night at the Huntsman Center.

The scrimmage gave head coach Jim Boylen the chance to try several lineups as the team prepares for the upcoming season and its first game this Saturday, an exhibition game against Ohio’s University of Findlay.

Although the teams used players interchangeably, the Red Team8212;led by returning starters Carlon Brown and Luka Drca8212;soundly defeated the White Team 62-34. Brown and Drca turned in solid performances, as did returning starter Kim Tillie.

Freshman Marshall Henderson stood out from the team’s other new players with his impressive shooting from 3-point range and is in the mix for a starting position, Boylen said.

Junior college transfer Jay Watkins quickly became a crowd favorite with his athletic play and impressive dunks throughout the game. After the scrimmage, Boylen said Watkins looked like he would be able to be a solid contributor to the team, but Thursday morning, an MRI revealed a stress fracture in Watkins’ pelvis, which will sideline him for four to six weeks.

Watkins had reportedly been experiencing pain in the area but chose to play through it for the scrimmage. Thursday morning, Watkins’ pain increased, prompting the MRI. The 6-foot-7-inch junior was unique because he had the ability to defend any position on the floor and will be missed in his time out, Boylen said.

Boylen changed the team’s lineup throughout the night, making adjustments as one team would begin to dominate on offense or defense. The ability to switch players around is one of the great benefits of having a full scrimmage, Boylen said, but it makes a balanced attack difficult.

“When you scrimmage against yourself, it can be a challenge, because if you’re good offensively, it means you’re bad defensively, and if you’re good defensively, it means you’re bad offensively,” Boylen said.

The scrimmage also gave fans a chance to get a better look at 7-foot-3-inch sophomore center David Foster. Foster played in 20 games as a freshman during the 2006-2007 season and is newly returned from a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He was first-team all-CIF Division 1-A while playing at his high school in El Toro, Calif., and will likely see significant time this season at the center position.

The U’s starting five lineup is still solidifying, but Boylen said he was pleased with his team’s overall performance on the night.

“We’re a work in progress,” Boylen said. “But I like our talent.”

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Lennie Mahler/The Daily Utah Chronicle

Junior college transfer Jay Watkins was a crowd favorite at the team?s scrimmage Wednesday night. Watkins will miss the next four to six weeks with a stress fracture in his pelvis.