Utah basketball: Future Ute Josh Hearlihy gets first look at Utes
Published: January 30, 2012 11:36PM
Updated: January 29, 2012 12:21AM

Los Angeles • For its first L.A. trip as members of the Pac-12, the Utah basketball team had no native Southern Californians on its roster.

That won’t be the case in future years.

The Utes will add at least one to their roster next year. Josh Hearlihy, a forward from Harvard-Westlake School in nearby Studio City, signed with Larry Krystkowiak’s Utes in November and was in attendance for both the Utes’ games in L.A. this week, the first Utah games he’d seen in person.

“It was nice,” Hearlihy said, “because it was only like a 20-minute drive.”

A slender 6-foot-8 slasher with a mop of yellow hair, Hearlihy averages 16.3 points for Harvard-Westlake, but before Saturday had missed 14 games with torn patella tendons in both knees. He underwent a platelet-rich plasma procedure to repair the tears, and returned Saturday to help the Wolverines to a 62-60 win over Torrey Pines.

He made three 3-pointers in the fourth quarter and finished with nine points in his first game back.

The Ute-to-be said he felt no pain in his return.

“It feels really good,” he said. “I haven’t not had pain in two years. To start back up with no pain is great.”

Hours later, he was in the stands at the Galen Center watching his future team.

“It’s exciting to get to know them,” Hearlihy said, “and that I’m going to be out there and contributing next year.”

Hearlihy was one of five players to sign with the Utes in November’s early-signing period and the second high schooler to verbally commit, after West Jordan’s Jordan Loveridge.

Although his strength is playing on the wing, he would be the second-tallest player on Utah’s team this season.

In a sparsely populated Galen Center, each Ute fan in attendance stood out like a movie star at a laundromat.

In addition to a future Ute, a former one watched Saturday, as well. Billy McGill, Utah’s all-time points leader, watched the game from behind the team’s bench.

boram@sltrib.com

Twitter: @oramb