Utah Utes

Jakob Poeltl, Jordan McLaughlin

Could a small change help Utah’s Jakob Poeltl improve his free throw numbers?

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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.

But according to a story from Kyle Goon of the Salt Lake Tribune, Poeltl had his eyes examined during the summer and he’s wearing contact lenses again. Could this be the type of change that helps Poeltl see the basket a bit better?

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

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Brendan Bailey, a four-star small forward, has cut his list of schools to five, telling Josh Gershon of Scout.com on Friday night that 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.

Four-star power forward Mitch Lightfoot trims list to five

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After deciding to de-commit from New Mexico and reopen his recruitment in mid-April, four-star power forward Mitch Lightfoot has seen more than a few high-major programs express interest. Sunday night the Arizona native announced that he’s cut his list to five programs with one of his home state’s flagship schools making the cut.

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.