Utah basketball: Without Josh Watkins, Utes will rely on effort and backup
Seven games and six losses into Larry Krystkowiak's first season, a struggling Cal State-Fullerton team might arrive at the right time for the Utes. But the Titans didn't just suspend their best player.
The Utes did. Now, life without Jiggy begins.
The Utes task got tougher Monday when Krystkowiak indefinitely sidelined point guard Josh "Jiggy" Watkins after a string of issues that culminated with Watkins arriving late to practice on Monday.
"It hurts because he's our leading scorer and he's a big part of what we do," junior guard Chris Hines said. "But we have to move on, it's a team game."
Freshman Kareem Storey will likely replace Watkins in the starting lineup Wednesday. He's shown flashes of promise, but his 3.9 points per game pale compared to the 17.7 Watkins provided through seven games.
Regardless, Hines said the Utes believe in Storey, a Baltimore native.
"I think Kareem has showed some maturity and he'll help us at the one spot," Hines said.
Whether Watkins, who averaged 17.7 points in the first seven games, will return soon or even at all is the Utes biggest question, but it's far from their only one.
Watkins worked out with assistant coach Andy Hill Tuesday after his teammates had cleared the Huntsman Center floor after an abbreviated practice in which they tried to address their early season problems. Defense has been the biggest one.
A day earlier, though, Krystkowiak said that the Utes' effort had become a problem, particularly once they fell behind to opponents.
"Our guys sometimes get into this coast mode and it's not going to work at the D-I level," Krystkowiak said on Monday, "and it's not going to work at the Pac-12 level. So, we find ourselves trying to coach effort more than you'd like to."
Junior Dijon Farr was more blunt: "Some people just quit. We got players on our team that quit when [the other team gets] 10 points ahead."
Cal State-Fullerton at Utah
P At the Huntsman Center
Tipoff • 7 p.m.
Radio • 700 AM
Records • Utah 1-6, Cal State-Fullerton 4-3
Series record • Utah 9-2
Last meeting • Utah 87-59 (Nov. 15, 1997)
About the Utes • Leading scorer Josh "Jiggy" Watkins will serve the first game of an indefinite suspension for conduct detrimental to the team. â¦ Watkins averaged 17.7 points per game through seven games and will likely be replaced by freshman Kareem Storey. â¦ The Utes 1-6 record is the worst start in program history.
About the Titans • The Titans beat Southern Illinois-Edwardsville on Saturday to break a three-game losing streak. â¦ Four Titans average double-digit scoring, led by D.J. Seeley's 16.7 per game.