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Matt Piper and Kyle Goon
Matt Piper and Kyle Goon cover University of Utah sports teams for The Salt Lake Tribune. Matt Piper is on twitter at @matthew_piper, Kyle Goon is on twitter at @kylegoon

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The enigmatic freshman year of George Matthews

If there's one player already on the Utes' roster that fans seem to think could actually help the 3-10 Utes, it's George Matthews.

The boy-faced freshman was former coach Jim Boylen's contribution to this class of Utes. A 6-foot-5 wing who was a three-star recruit out of Westwind Prep in Arizona, Matthews seems a natural to find the floor for a Utah team short on talent. But even on the worst team in program history, and one of the worst in the country, Matthews can't crack the rotation.

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He has been relegated to the bench and has been slow to get back into shape after missing the summer with a broken foot

For a stretch of three games before Christmas, Matthews did not record any time, and prior to Saturday's record-setting loss at Colorado, his season-high was nine minutes. He hasn't scored more than two points in a game and in practice he has often looked outmatched and bewildered.

"It has been slow for him to pick some stuff up," Krystkowiak said Monday. "I sense that he's getting better in practices, he made some shots today in practice and he has that skill where he's a pretty skilled player and he's getting better."

Matthews hasn't been shy.

He is solidly 0-for-11 on 3-pointers, and has attempted at least one in all but three of the nine games in which he has played.

"That's why I love Coach K," Matthews said, "when I get in, if I'm open, he's like, 'Shoot it.' Even if I'm hesitant to shoot it, I can hear him behind me, 'Shoot it, you're open, shoot it.'"

Matthews has been forced to practice much of the season out of position. Make no mistake, he is best suited as a small forward. But with the injuries and depth issues the Utes have in the frontcourt, he has become a four-man in the Utes' system.

With injuries now turning to the wings - Cedric Martin and Chris Hines - Krystkowiak said Matthews may get to spend more time at his natural position.

"He'll probably have an opportunity to come out," he said.

Matthews appears to be a walking advertisement for a redshirt season. But with a dearth of go-to options, Krystkowiak was not in a position to redshirt any of his freshmen this season.

Matthews acknowledged that he has had a hard time adjusting to the culture of college.

"That's my mind," he said. "I was physically behind, I was out of shape, I was 20 pounds out of shape and then college is so fast, being in a new place, coaches throwing so much at us, trying to learn everything on the fly."

— Bill Oram



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