Utah guard Devante Doutrive has played basketball since the first grade, and he can’t ever remember ever going this long without taking part in a bona fide game.
A freshman sitting out this season as a redshirt year, Doutrive spends game days on the sidelines in sweats or street clothes. During games, he’s sometimes relegated to a seat behind the bench because there are more bodies than sideline space. Often during pregame warm-ups, he’s shagging basketballs and throwing passes to teammates who are preparing to play.
If Doutrive weren’t 6-foot-5 and 190 pounds, he might be mistaken for a team manager. Still, while he’s virtually anonymous this season, the strides he makes behind the scenes this year will likely have a critical impact on the Utah team that takes the court in the 2018-19 season.
“I think that this season, right now, made me a better person and made me realize what I have to bring to the table next year,” Doutrive said. “Just seeing what the older people — the seniors — are doing, I’ve just had to learn off of them.”
COLORADO AT UTAH
When • Saturday, 5 p.m.
TV • Pac-12 Network
Doutrive, who started his high school career in Alaska, led Birmingham High School to a city championship in Los Angeles last winter. Scout.com ranked him a four-star prospect, the 67th-best prospect in the 2017 graduating class.
“I don’t even care how many stars, if he’s a three-star or a four-star,” former Stanford standout Casey Jacobsen, a Pac-12 Network and FS1 basketball analyst, said of Doutrive. “I could give a crap about that. He is going to be an excellent basketball player. He’ll have a chance to start next year. If he does what I think he’s capable of, he could be a starting two-guard for them.”
Doutrive averaged 22.3 points, 8.7 rebounds, 5.6 assists and 2.7 steals per game as a senior and earned the L.A. City Section Player of the Year. National recruiting analyst for 247Sports Josh Gershon described Doutrive as having “all-conference upside.”
“It was kind of hard, watching other people play while you’re just sitting there and you can’t do what you do,” Doutrive said. “It was kind of hard at first, but once the season was flowing, it’s pretty easy just to get used to how college works and how college plays. I think I’m more calm, I’m not tripping about playing right now. I’m just getting ready for next year.”
A late qualifier academically, Doutrive didn’t join the Utes until September. In recent years, Kyle Kuzma, Jayce Johnson and Chris Seeley have all sat out as redshirt additions to the program before moving into fairly regular minutes as freshmen. Kuzma, who redshirted for academic reasons as a freshman, turned into a first-round pick in the NBA Draft by the end of his junior season.
Because of the rules at the time, Kuzma wasn’t allowed to practice with the team during his redshirt season. Doutrive does not have that restriction. He tests himself daily defending guards Justin Bibbins, Sedrick Barefield and Parker Van Dyke and pitting his offensive arsenal against a Utes defense that’s currently ranked first in the Pac-12 in points allowed per game.
Along with adjusting to the speed of the game and getting stronger in the weight room, Doutrive claims to have made significant improvement in his ball handling and defense.
Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak says a large portion of the process for redshirt freshmen comes off the court in terms of handling academics, creating good habits, acclimating to the college environment and integrating into the culture of the program.
On the court, Doutrive has spent most of this season mimicking the top perimeter players on opposing teams as part of the Utes’ “Bomb Squad.” That group’s main job consists of getting the starters and rotation players prepared for what they’ll see from their next opponent.
“You have Devante take on the persona of one those players, and you learn a different offense, learn a different style,” Krystkowiak said. “Instead of these kids kind of melting down when they come in over the redshirt year, you can actively get them engaged and make sure that they know they’re needed. They see a lot of different things so when they do get cut loose, I think, they’re a little bit more prepared for it.”
Krystkowiak asserts that the true assessment of any player doesn’t begin until the staff gets to work with him in practice and gets a feel for his strengths as well as potential warts. While there aren’t any stats to analyze for players sitting out as redshirts — with the exception of the early preseason practices — that doesn’t mean players don’t have ways to measure progress.
“We’re coaching them,” Krystkowiak said. “They don’t just get to come into practice and sling up shots and build bad habits. I would think a lot of the feedback they’re getting is just realizing it’s not easy. They’re going to see a lot of different things and be ready for it, and then there’s individual workouts they can do with our staff to address certain weaknesses. We want to make sure we shore up those areas so they become a more rounded player when the time comes for them to play.”
UTAH NEWCOMERS 2018-19
Timmy Allen, 6-6, 210 lbs., guard/forward, Mesa., Ariz.
Riley Battin, 6-9, 220, forward, Oak Park, Calif.
Devante Doutrive, 6-5, 190, guard, Woodland Hills, Calif. (redshirt)
Naseem Gaskin, 6-3, 175, guard, Oakland, Calif.
Charles Jones Jr., 6-2, 200, guard, Portland, Ore. (junior college transfer)
*Lahat Thioune, 6-11, 205, forward, Melbourne, Fla.
* Thioune announced his commitment in February, but cannot sign until April 11.