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The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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New players working to integrate with team

By Joseph Simmons

The men’s basketball team has plenty of new faces, but head coach Jim Boylen doesn’t see a need for that to mean a less competitive team this season.

In the Utes’ victory Saturday, Boylen used 14 players throughout the game, 10 of whom were wearing a Runnin’ Ute jersey for the first time. On the roster of 16 players, only three have been at Utah for more than two years8212;seniors Luka Drca and Kim Tillie and junior Carlon Brown. Although Boylen has seven upperclassmen available, four of those are junior college transfers who are new to his system. However, Boylen said he feels those transfers8212;juniors Matt Read, Austin Robison, Ricky Shoff and Jay Watkins8212;have worked hard and are integrating into the system well.

“They put in a lot of work over the summer, and now they’re working hard, they’re training hard and they’re learning,” Boylen said. “They understand what’s expected here, and I’m happy with how they’re developing.”

Perhaps the most intriguing newcomer on the team is true freshman Marshall Henderson. Although Henderson drew attention in the team’s open scrimmage and exhibition game for his 3-point shooting, his greatest role on the team will be helping run the offense at guard.

In addition to learning a new offense, Henderson has had to deal with the significant adjustment to college level basketball. Henderson had a prodigious high-school career, finishing as the all-time leader in Texas’ 5A division and 3-pointers with 429, averaging 25.8 points, 5.1 assists and 3.8 steals per game. He was also named District MVP. Nevertheless, he said he has found the jump from high school basketball to college basketball to be a big one.

“It’s way different,” he said. “It’s a lot faster. I still have a lot of adjustments to make, but I’m working every day on it.”

Fans will have to wait at least a few more weeks to see one of the most exciting transfers junior8212;Jay Watkins. Watkins showed off his impressive athleticism and strong defense at the team’s open scrimmage Oct. 27, but the next morning, an MRI revealed a stress fracture in his pelvis, which will keep him sidelined another three to five weeks. When Watkins returns, he will be an asset to the Utah defense because of his unique ability to guard any position.

“To have a guy that can guard any position one-on-one gives you a lot of flexibility on defense,” Boylen said.

Two big factors in the Utes’ defense will be the one-two combo of centers redshirt freshman Jason Washburn and sophomore David Foster. Both of the players are getting their legs back8212;Washburn is returning from injury and Foster from a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Despite having to get back in the swing of things physically, the duo made their presence felt against the Oilers, combining for five blocks and 10 rebounds.

Regardless of how much experience his team has in his program, Boylen said he is excited about the potential of the team this season and moving forward after that. He said he doesn’t see a need for a dip in the quality of Utah basketball, even with so many new faces.

“I’m not using the term “rebuilding,’ I don’t believe in that,” Boylen said. “We’re developing a team to win at Utah. How quickly that happens will depend on how quickly we develop chemistry and trust, and so far I’m pleased with what I see.”

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