The pieces continue to fall into place for Utah basketball coach Ray Giacoletti.
Giacoletti returned Wednesday afternoon from a whirlwind trip to Australia with the news that center Andrew Bogut has decided to return for his sophomore season in the fall.
"Obviously, we're excited to have Andrew back," Giacoletti said. "He's a pretty special guy."
Giacoletti actually spent more time flying to and from Australia (17 hours each way) than he did in the Land Down Under. He was in Melbourne for less than 24 hours, just enough time to meet with Bogut and his parents and discuss the big center's future at Utah.
Giacoletti said he didn't have to twist any arms to get Bogut to return. He said Bogut had already discussed the matter with his parents and decided he wanted to play another year at Utah. Giacoletti said it was good to meet with Bogut and his family in person rather than correspond through phone calls and e-mail.
At the end of spring semester earlier this month, Bogut went straight from Salt Lake to the training center for the Australian national team. He finally returned to his home in Melbourne on Saturday.
"Andrew wanted to wait to talk to his parents back home before coming to a conclusion on his plans for next year," Giacoletti said. "I really enjoyed having the chance to meet Andrew's family face-to-face. Now with this behind us, everyone can focus on having a great summer."
While Bogut hasn't officially made the Australian Olympic team, which has already qualified for the Games in Greece in August, he has an excellent chance, according to Giacoletti. He said Bogut is part of a 26-man squad that will be trimmed to 12 and that Australian coaches have told him they are very high on Bogut. Last summer, Bogut led the Australian under-19 team to the Junior World Championship, where he was named MVP.
According to the Basketball Australia Web site, Bogut performed well in the first week of camp at the Australian Institute of Sport on May 10-14.
"Young gun Andrew Bogut made a real impact last week, having gained size in his year playing college basketball in the U.S.," the report said.
Giacoletti said he'll be thrilled to have Bogut play in the Olympics this summer.
"That will be huge," he said. "That's a great opportunity for him, and we support him. It should be fun following him throughout the summer."
Earlier this week, Bogut sounded undecided about his plans, telling the Sydney Daily Telegraph: "I'm going to go one more year at college or Europe, I haven't decided. I'm not ready (for the NBA) yet. I'm just looking at different options, it's always good to look at another option and obviously the money there (in Europe), but that's not the main reason I want to go. I want to get to the NBA, and I'll take the best and quickest path to get there."
Apparently, that path is through Utah.
The 6-foot-10, 233-pound center started every game for the Utes in 2003-04 and earned Mountain West Conference freshman of the year honors. He was also a second-team all-MWC player and ranked 15th in the nation in rebounds (9.9 per game) and 21st in field goal percentage (57.7). He also averaged 12.5 points per game and had 14 double-doubles.
Earlier this spring, Marc Jackson decided to return to the Ute team after leaving following the 2002-03 season because of differences with coach Rick Majerus. Jackson had been a second-team all-MWC player that season.
Besides Bogut and Jackson, the Utes will return two other starters and six lettermen from a team that went 24-9 and won the MWC tournament.
Tim Drisdom has been a starter for two years and Richard Chaney started at the small forward spot this year. Other returnees include Justin Hawkins, Bryant Markson, Chris Jackson and Jonas Langvad. Also joining the team this year are point guard Jermaine Calvin from Arizona, forward Jake Schmidt from Wyoming and Luke Nevill, a 7-foot Australian who signed this spring.
That gives Utah 11 scholarship players for next year and Giacoletti said unless "something crazy happens" he doesn't plan to sign another player this spring. The Utes are allowed one more scholarship due to the NCAA's decision to rescind the 5/8 scholarship rule earlier this spring.