Utah’s backcourt got a bit smaller this offseason. While 5-foot-8 Justin Bibbins isn’t a big guard, he will provide experience to a new-look backcourt for the Utes, as he announced he would transfer to Utah for his final season of eligibility.
Bibbins, a graduate transfer, spent his first three years at Long Beach State. He averaged 13.1 points and 4.9 assists per game, shooting 38 percent from three, this past season for the 49ers.
The Utes have had its share of roster turnover this spring. Lorenzo Bonam is set to graduate while Devon Daniels and JoJo Zamora, two guards in the rotation this past year, both transferred from the program.
Long Beach State head coach Dan Monson has never shied away from scheduling high-major opponents, so Bibbins has experience against better competition. This season alone he faced five NCAA Tournament teams out of conference, including eventual national champion North Carolina. He also recorded a 16-point, six-assist effort against future Pac 12 Conference foe Oregon State in a meeting on Dec. 16.
Utah returns David Collette but Larry Krystkowiak is waiting for a decision from Kyle Kuzma, who declared for the 2017 NBA Draft but did not sign with an agent, leaving him the possibility of returning to Salt Lake City for his senior season.
Utah was hit was some significant attrition Friday.
The Utes announced the transfers of Devon Daniels and JoJo Zamora, a pair of players with significant backcourt experience.
“There are certain responsibilities and expectations that are critical in being a member of our program,” Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak said in a release. “We wish these young men the very best in their future endeavors.”
The duo started 46 combined games last season for Utah, which went 20-12, finished fourth in the Pac-12 and lost in the first round of the NIT this year. Daniels, who averaged 10 points and 4.7 rebounds per game, served a three-game suspension during the year for a violation of team rules.
“It was definitely hard, because I love my teammates,” Daniels told the Salt Lake Tribune regarding his transfer. “The coaches taught me a lot. But I talked with my family and the coaches, and we thought it would be best for both parties. For the Utes and me.”
Zamora averaged 6.9 points per game for the Utes.
The professional decision of Kyle Kuzma now looms large for Utah. The 6-foot-9 junior has declared for the NBA draft, but has not hired an agent. If he should ultimately decide to keep his name in the draft, the Utes will be looking at nearly a significant tire reboot from last year’s team.
Utah’s Krystkowiak reveals he had cancerous thyroid removed
Utah sophomore center Jakob Poeltl is a potential top-10 pick in the 2016 NBA Draft if he has another good season for the Utes, but he was very weak in one key area last season. The 7-foot native of Austria was an early force as a freshman last season and shot 68 percent from the floor for a Sweet 16 team, but he was only 44 percent from the charity stripe.
For a center like Poeltl, who is going to draw a lot of fouls, 44 percent is just asking opposing teams for a “hack-a-player” scenario at the end of a half.
The game is also easier when you can see the court clearly.
Poeltl got his eyes examined during the Nike camp, where he learned his left eye was weaker than his right. He used to wear contacts several years back, and decided to get them again this summer.
The difference is nearly imperceptible to him day-to-day. But he believes it’s helped his depth perception. The basket seems easier to gauge, and his shots seem to be going in more.
It’s hard to say if this small change will help Poeltl see the basket better and help him make more free throws, but if he can, that’s a scary thought. Draft Express currently rates Poeltl as the No. 10 overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft and he averaged 9.1 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game in only 23.3 minutes per game last season. If improves his free-throw percentage even by a few points, it’ll be a big improvement in his game.
Four-star forward Brendan Bailey down to five schools
Brendan Bailey, a four-star small forward, has cut his list of schools to five, telling Josh Gershon of Scout.com on Friday nightthat he is down to Gonzaga, Marquette, Michigan, San Diego State and Utah.
The 6-foot-7 American Fork High (Utah) product committed to Arizona State on Dec. 1. But after Herb Sendek was fired, he reopened his recruitment.
Bailey told Gershon that he has already taken official visits to Marquette and San Diego State while also using a third to take a trip to UConn. That leaves Bailey with two remaining official visits. He told Scout he’ll likely be on the Gonzaga campus the first or second week of October.
Bailey is rated as the No. 61 overall player in the senior class by Rivals. He is expected to take a two-year Mormon mission before he enrolls in college, which means he won’t start his collegiate career until 2018.
He averaged 14.1 points and 7.5 rebounds per game with Dream Vision in the adidas Gauntlet Series.
Arizona, which became more involved in Lightfoot’s recruitment the second time around than they were pre-New Mexico commitment, is on the list as are Kansas, St. John’s, Stanford and Utah. Of those five programs Stanford may be in the best shape when it comes to their front court rotation in the future, with Reid Travis and Michael Humphrey (like Lightfoot, a native of Arizona) both being sophomores.
Arizona will lose at least three front court players after the 2015-16 season in Kaleb Tarczewski, Ryan Anderson and Mark Tollefsen. As for Kansas, Perry Ellis, Jamari Traylor and Hunter Mickelson are all entering their final season of eligibility and freshmen Carlton Bragg and Cheick Diallo (who has yet to be cleared by the NCAA) are both highly-regarded prospects.
Utah (which will host Lightfoot for an official visit September 5) may not have a single senior in its post rotation, but the Runnin’ Utes do have a sophomore in Jakob Poeltl who nearly turned pro back in the spring. And St. John’s is in a position where it needs a serious infusion of talent, especially in the front court. The good news for the Red Storm is that they’re young in that area, as none of their big men are seniors and Tennessee transfer Tariq Owens will be available in 2016-17 after he sits out the upcoming season.