‘It has to make sense’: How will coach Craig Smith use his last remaining scholarship?
Recently released Runnin’ Utes’ roster includes 15 players — 12 scholarship guys and three walk-ons, including BYU transfer Gavin Baxter
For all intents and purposes, the second year of the Craig Smith era began earlier this week at the University of Utah’s Jon M. and Karen Huntsman Basketball Facility on campus, as returning players joined newcomers to begin summer workouts and conditioning sessions.
No fewer than 15 players are on the recently released roster — 12 scholarship players and three walk-ons — but that doesn’t mean the Utes aren’t still looking to add another scholarship player to reach the maximum of 13 if the right fit comes along, Smith told the Deseret News on Tuesday.
“We are still recruiting some guys. We will see what happens. We are definitely not of the mindset that we just gotta sign a guy to sign a guy. It has to make sense in every facet.” — Craig Smith
“We are still recruiting some guys,” Smith said. “We will see what happens. We are definitely not of the mindset that we just gotta sign a guy to sign a guy. It has to make sense in every facet.”
The coach said he and his assistants aren’t necessarily looking for an instant impact guy or a more long-term project.
“It has to be a guy who can impact this program at some point, and help elevate our program,” he said. “And then it just has to make sense. Like we always say, ‘Can they thrive in our program? Can they thrive in Salt Lake City? And are they going to be about the right thing, and impact winning?’”
The player could come from the high school ranks, the junior college ranks, or the transfer portal, Smith said, although a transfer portal player would have to get approval from the NCAA to use the one-time transfer waiver because that deadline has passed.
“There are still some guys out there that we are strongly looking at,” Smith said, being careful not to give out names so as to not violate NCAA recruiting rules. “We could still take a guy out of the portal and redshirt him. We could still take a guy out of the portal and maybe they have an extenuating circumstance where maybe they could apply for a waiver and get granted. I mean, there have been a lot of waivers granted.”
One transfer portal guy who some Ute fans who follow recruiting closely were hoping to see in red because he played at Wasatch Academy, Boise State transfer Emmanuel Akot, is apparently not going to happen. Jeff Goodman of Stadium reported Wednesday that Akot’s top three schools are Western Kentucky, Memphis and North Carolina State.
Good to be back in the lab with the fellas!! 😎 pic.twitter.com/MTc1z2gGjs— Utah Basketball (@UtahMBB) June 15, 2022
Smith said a lot of their recruiting attention has already been turned to the 2023 class, which they can begin signing in November. In that regard, a lot of the evaluating takes place in July, although new assistant coach Chris Burgess said last month that he was on the recruiting trail in April at tournaments in Indianapolis and Atlanta.
“We are not recruiting a crazy amount of guys for next year’s class, but there are definitely a little over a handful,” Smith said. “There are high school kids, there are transfer portal kids, there are one-year guys, there are three-year guys. So we are still recruiting a wide array of possibilities.”
As far as getting guys back on campus last Monday goes, Smith said a lot of guys “look great” and he can tell that a lot of conditioning and strength work went on since he last saw his players together.
“We did our typical first day,” he said. “We had the (youth) basketball camp going on as well, so most of the guys that can work camps are working the camp, making a little extra money.”
2022-23 roster released
According to the roster released online at UtahUtes.com, sophomore guard Brandon Haddock of Southlake, Texas (Carroll High) is re-joining the program as a walk-on after having served a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to Las Vegas during COVID-19 and then to Micronesia. Haddock, who averaged 24 points a game in high school, played sparingly as a freshman for the Runnin’ Utes in 2019-20.
Also, the roster shows that BYU transfer Gavin Baxter, a walk-on, will wear No. 0.
Wisconsin transfer Ben Carlson will wear No. 1 and Cincinnati transfer Mike Saunders Jr. will wear No. 2.
Guard David Jenkins Jr. wore No. 1 last year, but he announced Wednesday he is transferring to Purdue.
Freshman guard Wilguens Exacte Jr. will wear No. 11, freshman center Keba Keita will wear No. 13 and freshman guard Luka Tarlac will wear No. 21.
Current, former Utes in Powder League
Play began Wednesday night in the Powder League, a Utah-based basketball pro-am league in its third year. Games this year will be played at Judge Memorial Catholic High in Salt Lake City.
A quick perusal of the rosters shows that at least two current Utes — Marco Anthony and Gabe Madsen — are playing this year. They are on Team Humpherys.
Former Utes playing in the league include Parker Van Dyke, Rylan Jones (now at USU), Tim Drisdom, Shaun Green, Corbin Green, Brekkott Chapman and Bryant Markson.
IG saw it first 👀#GoUtes | @ballerbranden35 https://t.co/Eo2JSe7HRh— Utah Basketball (@UtahMBB) June 16, 2022