It was kind of a depressing scene at Utah basketball practice today. David Foster was on one sideline in street clothes, riding one of those little scooters with a knee rest designed to keep weight off the broken right foot that will keep him out for at least six weeks. Chris Hines, who will be out two-to-four weeks with injured ribs was in the corner, watching hopelessly as coach Larry Krystkowiak's frustrations seemed to reach full peak.
And Josh Watkins sat, arms folded. Following a conditioning-intense practice, Krystkowiak said he had "removed" Watkins from practice, citing an internal matter and declined to say more.
The Utes ran the most they have run in a practice in weeks. I didn't count, but they must have run 50 full-court sprints. A month ago, they showed up at their first practice, talking about their top-notch condition, claiming status as the most in-shape team in the country.
"We thought we were," freshman forward Blake Wilkinson said. "I think running-wise we're in good shape. When you get on the court and you've got fans and you've got the emotions and you're thinking so hard, you get exhausted so much quicker."
Krystkowiak's take was far less nuanced.
"We have a long way to go," he said. "We have got to get in better shape."
The focus for the Utes since practices began has been implementing Krystkowiak's offensive and defensive schemes and, he said, players have lost whatever conditioning edge they may have had.
"There's so much teaching over the course of three weeks," he said. "You lose a little bit. We have to fight through some of it. We're not doing a very good job."
At practice Monday Krystkowiak began to whittle away at his offensive plan. Thirty plays became eight. He said with the injuries to the team the Utes have needed to simplify things.
"You forget that you've got young guys," he said, "and when you go through some injuries with a Javon [Dawson] and a Hines and a Foster, you know sthat some of these freshmen are going to be depended on. It's no different than putting a play in that's going to help them succeed, but you have to eliminate a lot of the plays so they don't have to think as much."
• Signing day comes tomorrow (and lasts for two weeks) but the Utes won't be getting as much good news as they hoped. High school seniors Jordan Loveridge, Josh Hearlihy and Justin Seymour will all sign this week, as we reported earlier. But high-end recruits Ben Carter and Adonis Filer are headed elsewhere.
Additionally, the Utes have commitments from a pair of returned missionaries. Georgia native Jeremy Olsen first signed with Jim Boylen two years ago and Dallin Bachynski, a seven-footer who first played at Southern Utah, are both expected to sign with the Utes this week.
— Bill Oram
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