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Both Gach already making a name for himself as a Ute freshman

SALT LAKE CITY — It was the last day of the intense three-week, youth basketball extravaganza that fills Las Vegas gyms every July and Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak and assistant Tommy Connor were tired. They were watching a prospective recruit when a player on the court behind them suddenly caught their eye.

After continually looking over their shoulders, they finally turned their chairs around to take a closer look at the tall, skinny point guard who reminded them of one of their top players from their seven years at Utah, Delon Wright.

They discovered his name was Both Gach (pronounced Booth Gotch) and he hailed from Minnesota. At 6-foot-7, 180 pounds, he looked more like a distance runner than a basketball player. But he had a similar body type and some of the same skills that Wright displayed for Utah from 2013-15 when he was an all-Pac-12 player before being drafted by the Toronto Raptors.

So the Utes started recruiting Gach and the following spring signed him to a letter of intent after he passed up offers from Texas Tech and San Diego State.

It hasn’t taken long for Gach to make an impact for the young Utes’ squad that features nine new players, including six freshmen. He moved into the starting lineup three games ago at the point guard position and is coming off his best game last week against Tulsa when he scored a team-high 15 points.

He is third on the team in scoring at 8.7 ppg, is tied for the team lead in steals and has respectable shooting numbers of 48.3 percent from the field, 38.9 percent from 3-point range and 81.0 percent from the line.

The three newcomers expected to make an immediate impact for the Utes were JC guard Charles Jones, freshman forward Timmy Allen and graduate transfer center Novak Topalovic, but so far Gach has surpassed them all.

“Both’s a great kid,” said Krystkowiak. “He’s playing great, he’s super coachable and he’s doing a nice job of not making the same mistake twice.”

If you ask Gach his strengths as a player, he first mentions playmaking, which is what point guards are supposed to do. However, the Utes have needed his scoring ability, which he showed off in last week’s game against Tulsa when the Utes were struggling to make a basket.

It was 4-4 midway through the first half when Gach sank a jumper in the lane. Less than a minute later, he knocked down a 3-pointer from out front and another minute later he sank a 3-pointer from the left corner. Just like that, he had eight points and it was 12-6 and the Utes were off and running on their way to a 69-64 victory.

“Point guard is my natural position,” Gach says. “Playmaking, I like making plays for teammates, me passing the ball and seeing teammates score, I get excited about that and I feed off passing the ball and seeing them scoring.”

That’s where the comparisons to Wright come as Wright was a stat-sheet stuffer, who could pass the ball, score and rebound. Krystkowiak is quick to say he doesn’t expect Gach to become an NBA player like Wright but hopes he can become a similar player for the Utes.

“Whenever you have a player of the caliber of Delon Wright, the rest of your life you’re always looking for that guy,” said Krystkowiak. “There’s a lot of similarities between his game and Delon’s game. If you’ve seen Both play . . . you’ve seen some of the instinctive stuff and the length and the smoothness and different things he does.”

Gach’s parents are from South Sudan, Africa and moved from New York to Austin, Minnesota, where he grew up. Both has a twin brother, Douth, who plays junior college basketball in North Dakota and an older brother who plays lower-division college basketball.

After earning all-state honors at Austin High and leading his team to the state 3A title, Gach decided to move to Arizona for his senior year of high school and starred for Arizona Compass Prep School near Phoenix where he averaged 24 points, 8 rebounds and 7 assists per game. It was before that season that he was spotted by the Ute coaches, who were impressed by how hard he was playing on the last day of 15 days of tournaments for top high school players.

“At the end of 15 days of recruiting, a lot of guys had shut it down,” Krystkowiak said. “He was one of the guys who was playing really well on the last day and to me that says a lot about the kid’s motor and desire to still be participating at a high level.”

Gach will get his first look at an in-state rivalry this Saturday when the Utes take on BYU at Vivint Arena in a noon game.

Gach still has a lot to work on – to cut down on his turnovers and add to his assist total, but he says his main goal now is to “be more consistent.”

Krystkowiak is looking forward to having the tall, skinny kid with the funny name in his lineup for years to come.

“He’s been a joy to coach and he’s a great teammate.”