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Ute basketball team still figuring out lineup as first game approaches Saturday

Utah Utes forward Kyle Kuzma (35)and Utah Utes guard Lorenzo Bonam (15) defend Oregon Ducks forward Jordan Bell (1) during PAC12 action in Salt Lake City Thursday, Jan. 14, 2016.
Utah Utes forward Kyle Kuzma (35)and Utah Utes guard Lorenzo Bonam (15) defend Oregon Ducks forward Jordan Bell (1) during PAC12 action in Salt Lake City Thursday, Jan. 14, 2016.
Jeffrey D. Allred,

SALT LAKE CITY —A couple of days before his team’s first exhibition game against Northwest Nazarene (Saturday 5 p.m.), coach Larry Krystkowiak still doesn’t know who his starters will be, or at least that’s what he’s saying.

Unlike the past couple of years when the Utes had returning veterans such as Brandon Taylor and Jordan Loveridge, along with future NBA first-round picks Delon Wright and Jakob Poeltl, the Utes have a brand-new bunch of players this year.

Kyrstkowiak believes he has good players this year, but he hasn’t settled on a lineup yet.

“It’s early enough, that I don’t know who’s going to start,” he said. “I’m going to sit down and pencil some stuff in. We’ll have the rotation figured out and a plan A, plan B, plan C, backup plan, foul plan – whatever, and try to figure out a way to survive.”

It’s likely that two players who started nearly every game last year – forward Kyle Kuzma and guard Lorenzo Bonam, will both be in the starting lineup. Forward Gabe Bealer, who played in 16 games last year and walk-on Jake Connor, are the only two other players back from last year’s team.

Two players who are expected to start once the league season comes around are forward David Collette and guard Sedrick Barefield, transfers from Utah State and SMU, respectively, who must each sit out until the end of the semester and won’t be eligible until mid-December.

Among the players in the mix to start or see significant action in the early season are guard Parker Van Dyke, a returned LDS Church missionary, who played for the 2013-14 team, freshman centers Jayce Johnson and Jakub Jokl, forward Tyler Rawson, a transfer from Salt Lake Community College, and guards Devon Daniels and JoJo Zamora.

SHORT-HANDED: The Utes were down to 11 players earlier this week because of injuries to a few players and an illness to Bealer.

JC transfer guard Tim Coleman is out because of shoulder surgery and freshman Chris Seeley is still sitting out after having shoulder surgery. Collette has been out with a bone chip in his elbow and Rawson missed some time with a sore neck.

“It’s not a real deep team right now,” Krystkowiak said. “Gabe's been sick the last couple of days with strep throat, so we’re in survival mode more than anything, trying to make the most of the guys that are available.”

Krystowiak said Collette’s injury hasn’t been too impactful since he can’t play for another six weeks, which has helped the team in a way.

“Dave wasn’t going to play until we got to Hawaii anyway,” he said. “So it’s probably been good for us to have him sitting on the sidelines because then it’s definitive and you realize you don’t have him, instead of him being out there practicing.”

SECRET SCRIMMAGE: For the past eight years, the NCAA has allowed basketball teams to have scrimmages against other schools in place of one of their exhibition games. The Utes have held these “secret scrimmages” against the likes of Colorado, Wyoming and Texas A&M.

Krystkowiak likes playing one of these scrimmages in place of a game against a lower-division school. The Utes recently hooked up with Texas A&M.

“Scrimmages have been really valuable for us,” he said. “We’ve been able to play Wyoming a few years and Texas A&M a couple of years. You can get into a flow against a new team and you play a scrimmage and run up and down. You can get a lot more out of it than you can in a normal game. It’s a win-win for everybody.”

UTE NOTES: Saturday’s game is early (5 p.m.), partly because the Utes open their regular season just three days later, Tuesday night against Concordia University (Portland, Oregon) . . . Like Northwest Nazarene of Nampa, Idaho, Concordia is a Division II school that is a member of the Great Northwest Athletic Conference . . . The Utes will go on the road twice in preseason — to Xavier on Dec. 10 and the Diamond Head Classic in Hawaii from Dec. 22-25.