Losing your leading scorer isn’t an ideal situation for any team. Especially a Utah Tech squad that is headed into their first year of conference tournament eligibility.
But it is exactly where the Utah Tech men’s basketball program finds itself. The graduation of star forward Hunter Schofield leaves a 15 points per game gap that head coach Jon Judkins and his staff are looking to fill in the 2022-23 season.
Fortunately for the Trailblazer staff, four of five starters are returning, along with four key bench players. Experience and familiarity are going to be the true strengths of the 2022-23 squad.
Utah Tech fans will also see multiple new additions to a familiar roster. As well as a whole new brand under the Utah Tech logo.
Perhaps it will be the start of something even more special moving forward for the Trailblazers.
Expect Cameron Gooden to be at the forefront of the attack. The senior guard played 31 minutes per game last year and will likely see that kind of usage again as his quiet leadership keeps the Trailblazer offense rolling. I expect to see CG3’s name in the Player of the Year conversation at the end of the year.
Frank Staine, UT’s vocal leader, has solidified himself as one of the program’s best all-time 3-point shooters. And fans can expect more of the same great shooting that they have become accustomed to.
In the 2021-22 season, Dancell Leter became the model of consistency for the Trailblazers scoring 11 or more points in nine of his last 12 games. Opposing teams will need to shift some focus as the senior forward has the ability to put up huge numbers quickly.
Isaiah Pope rounds out the returning starters from Judkins’ squad. The guard’s experience and basketball maturity seems to always put him in the right place at the right time for a clutch play.
There is a lot of excitement surrounding two sophomore returners, Noa Gonsalves and Trey Edmonds. Gonsalves had a solid freshman campaign and is set to have a breakout sophomore season.
Fans didn’t get to see a lot of Edmonds in the 21-22 season but what we did see was comforting. Plus rated athleticism and incredible size makes him a huge threat down low and will certainly cause problems for opponents.
The Trailblazers also return reliable forwards Trevon Allfrey and Jacob Nicolds. Allfrey filled huge minutes last year when Schofield wasn’t on the floor and Nicolds is a spark plug that consistently makes ‘tide-turning’ hustle plays.
Judkins’ staff quietly put together a very strong off season to bolster the experienced roster.
The Trailblazers had an obvious need down low with the loss of Schofield that was filled out of the transfer portal with Idaho big man Tanner Christensen. Christensen was an 8.5-point and 6.5-rebound per game guy for the Vandals last season. His experience and size should ease the pressure off of the guard play.
UT also added a slew of freshman talent for the 2022-23 season. Tacoma, Washington guard Asjon Anderson brings an impressive high school resume, where he averaged 31.5 ppg for Mount Tahoma High School. The Trailblazers also added Mason Mich’l, Chol Deng and three Utah High School 1000-point scorers Trevon Snoddy, Isaac Finlinson and Stone Hutchings.
The veteran presence will be the biggest strength for Utah Tech. The incoming freshman have solid leadership to bring them up to speed.
In all reality, the conference is better this year than it is last year making UT’s road to the conference tournament difficult. Add the new conference tournament seeding method and a very good non-conference schedule. Utah Tech is going to need to see huge production from the entire roster.
But Jon Judkins has a knack for bringing the best out of his players and I expect more of the same for the 2022-23 season.