It was one heck of a run for the Utes as they wrapped up the 2017-18 season with an appearance in the NIT Championship game, and moving foward the Utes have some big shoes to fill with some departing seniors. This senior class was pretty unconventinal, with many of them starting out at another school. I figured we should go back and take a look at the departing senior class and see what kind of holes they’re going to leave.
I was a fan of Bealer the moment he steped on campus, but he did have some issues developing consistency over the years. The transfer from the City College of San Francisco, Bealer always had a sweet stroke from beyond the three point line, but he wasn’t always given big minutes on the floor. On the season Bealer shot 41% from deep, which is a nice number, while scoring 5.9 points per game. It always seemed like Bealer was stuck between being a starter and coming off the bench, and I’m not sure if he ever found a good role on the team that maximized his strengths, but I know that three he hit against Saint Mary’s in the NIT was huge.
Going into the season, I didn’t have a ton of faith in Rawson as a primary contributor, but he won me over quickly this season. Rawson was a transfer from Salt Lake Community College, where he was part of a National Championship winning team. Rawson was a stat stuffer for the Utes this season with points, rebounds and assists. He was a perfect stretch four for the Utes to help open up the floor. It seemed to me, Rawson reflected how Utah was going to do on any given night. The Utes were pretty solid with two scorers, but when Rawson could give them that third option, Utah was tough to beat. He shot 37% from deep, while averaging 6.8 rebounds and 10.9 points. When David Collette went down late in the season with various injuries, Rawson did a great job filling in for big Dave. He’s going to be tough to replace, because at 6-10 and a good shooter from beyond the arc, plus willing to rebound and pass, that’s quite a position to fill.
Collette’s career was an interesting one, starting out at Utah State, have a good start to his career, he goes on his mission and transfers to the U right after. Of course, there was a lot of drama with the USU administration about being released from the Aggies. Ultimatley, he ended up on The Hill and started his career right after Christmas a year ago. Collette brought a very polished post game to the Utes, and was an instant impact player for Utah. He has always battled injury issues, specificially concussion issues, so he’s been in and out of the lineup quite a bit, but he was potent when he was healthy. On the season, Collette averaged 12.3 points per game and was the paint compliment that Utah’s guards needed. He did struggle at times with length, but when he was aggressive, especially in the early parts of the USU game, he was very impressive and hard to stop. He was by far the most talented post player Utah had, and he’ll be missed.
The transfer for Long Beach State only had one season at Utah, but it was a great one for the 5’ 8” point guard. Bibbins was being recruited by Utah when they had Brandon Taylor, so they stuck with Brandon and let Justin go to Long Beach. The moment he stepped on campus, Bibbins was a calming and leading force for the Utes. He is small in size but he played huge for the Utes. He was one of the best three point shooters in the Pac-12, and one of Utah’s leading scorers. He mnay have been the most clutch player on the team all season long, hitting big shot after big shot. On the season he shot 43% from the three point line, 45% from the field and averaged 14.8 points per game. He was also nails from the free throw line, shooting 87%, and went 12-of-12 against Western Kentucky in the NIT semifinals, when he wasn’t shooting that well. For a guy this size to be able to beat you even when he wasn’t shooting well from the floor is beyond impressive. He would attack the paint, and position his body perfectly to draw the foul over the trees down low. I just wish we could have gotten more than one year with this young man.
All-in-all, in an era of underclassmen dominating NCAA basketball, it’s nice to see a group of seniors come together and lead a team, and be the heart of the team. I should mention Jake Connor too. The Utes honored him as a senior, even if he’s though he’s a junior, it appears his career as a Utes is over. I don’t know if he’ll move on to play elsewhere or call it a career, Jake is a guy you need on a roster to be a glue guy.
This group wasn’t the most talented, or physically dominating, but they helped the Utes have a very good season, even without an NCAA tournament berth, which I think was a long shot going into the season. If Utah can suppliment the young talent on the roster with the incoming talent, and with senior leadership like what they had this year, good things will be in store going forward.