Los Angeles • Whether the Utes win in California or not, the state has been good to them.
Six current members of the Utes’ roster, including three starters, reside in California — as well as two of the four recruits signed to letters of intent in November.
Sedrick Barefield, Justin Bibbins, Gabe Bealer, Jayce Johnson, Chris Seeley and Devante Doutrive (redshirting this season) all played high school basketball in California. Johnson remained at the team hotel during Thursday’s game due to a stomach virus.
Utah started its California road trip with a game against Pac-12 leader UCLA at Pauley Pavilion on Thursday night. Utah plays at USC on Sunday.
“It’s fun for guys to be able to go home,” Utes coach Larry Krystkowiak said. “It’s definitely a business trip. I think we all know there’s some fringe benefits of getting some of our guys back there. There’s an awful lot of players in California, and the USC’s and the UCLA’s can only sign so many guys. Some of the guys that we have aren’t necessarily highly touted, and I think there’s a little bit of a factor of getting back there and trying to play well.”
Working his way back to U., babe
Seeley, a redshirt freshman forward from Fresno, Calif., played two minutes against Arizona State on Sunday night, his first playing time since Nov. 16. Seeley had gallbladder surgery on Dec. 1. In four games this season, the athletic 6-foot-8 forward has averaged 4.3 rebounds per game.
“It was an untimely injury, and he hasn’t really had much competition in over a month from the time that he went down,” Krystkowiak said earlier this week. “It’s timing. We haven’t changed much, but when you’re away from the game that long [it’s difficult]. Now, can Chris help us in the rebounding category? There’s no question, but it’s not just Chris. We can’t start begging for guys to bounce back from injury.”
Odds and ends
Senior forward David Collette is a Murray native, but he grew up following UCLA in large part because of his father, Jeff, who was born in California. Collette said his father grew up a UCLA fan and dreamed of his son playing for UCLA one day. “To be able to go play there, I’m really excited to go play in that pavilion,” Collette said Tuesday. “My dad will be there. It will be a fun experience to finally play there.” … Former Utes standout and NBA first-round draft pick Kyle Kuzma joined the Utes for a team meal on Wednesday night at the team’s hotel in Santa Monica. Kuzma’s Los Angeles Lakers played the San Antonio Spurs in a nationally-televised game on Thursday night. … The Utes’ two California commitments, Riley Battin, a 6-foot-9 forward for Oak Park High, and Naseem Gaskin, 6-foot-3 guard at Bishop O’Dowd, were each nominated as McDonald’s All-Americans this week.