Larry Krystkowiak has wasted no time in working to replace the talent departing the Utah basketball program. With Brandon Taylor, Jordan Loveridge, Austin Eastman, Dakari Tucker and in all likelihood Jakob Poeltl leaving next season, there will be plenty of opportunity for new faces to step up. The loss of Poeltl is particularly glaring, because not only was he the best player on the team, but there wasn't a lot of depth behind him in the post. The addition of forward Tyler Rawson will help address that depth.
Rawson comes to the Utes by way of Salt Lake Community College where he starred last season. Rawson graduated from Utah County's American Fork high school in 2014 before ending up at Southern Utah University for his first season of college. Rawson played only 17.1 minutes per game in Cedar City, averaging 7.4 ppg and 4.1 rpg. He transferred to SLCC last season, where he helped guide SLCC to the NJCAA championship this past season. Rawson averaged 15.9 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 2.6 apg and 1.5 bpg while shooting 54% from the field. The 6-10 forward scored in double figures in every game of the 24 team NJCAA tournament and had a double-double in both the semi final and championship game.
Rawson has been known to the Utah coaching staff for a while now, with assistant coach Tommy Connor having scouted him since AAU ball, when Rawson played alongside Connor's son and current Ute, Jake Connor. Rawson had been offered the opportunity to walk on, but finally got the scholarship he wanted after SLCC's championship run. The big man really came into his own this past season, serving as a driving force for the Bruins, with SLCC's coach calling him "a monster."
Rawson has not always dreamed of being a Ute. He actually grew up a BYU fan and hoped to be a Cougar coming out of high school. BYU did not pay Rawson much attention however, and his loyalty to the program suffered as a result. Rawson said the appeal of coming to Utah was an opportunity to play in "one of the best conferences in the country" while staying close to home at the same time.
Looking at the roster next year, it is obvious the coaching staff wanted to shore up any depth issues in the frontcourt. At 6-10, Rawson will join 6-9 Kyle Kuzma, 6-11 Jayce Johnson, 6-9 Makol Mawien, 6-8 Brekkot Chapman and 6-10 David Collette, who will become eligible in December. Kuzma and Johnson are probably the front runners to earn starting roles to begin the season, but Rawson should compete for minutes at the 4 spot, spelling Kuzma.
The staff liked Rawson for the way he ran the floor and his fundamentals. He will provide the team with a versatile body that at 6-10, will be able to play both the 4 and the 5 when needed. With so many big men on the roster next season, competition will be fierce for playing time. Don't expect Rawson to emerge as a star, but he could very well become a valuable role player off the bench next season for the Utes.