The Pac-12 got bigger on and off the court with the addition of Utah and Colorado.
The Utes feature the tallest player in the conference, 7 foot 3 senior center David Foster (near right).
Coach Larry Krystkowiak – a former 6-9 NBA forward – said he’s considering pairing Foster with 6-10 junior center Jason Washburn and a three-guard lineup.
“Defense is what I love to do,” Foster said last week at Pac-12 Media Day. “I love blocking shots and rebounding the ball. But over the summertime I’ve been working a lot offensively to improve on that side so that we can have more threats on the offensive end because the ball is what scores.”
Colorado is set to start a front line comprised of 6-11 sophomore center Shane Harris-Tunks, 6-9 senior forward Austin Dufault and 6-7 sophomore forward Andre Roberson.
Still no team in the Pac-12 is blessed with big men quite like UCLA. The Bruins boast four 6-10 players including sophomores Joshua Smith, Anthony Stover and twins Travis and David Wear. UCLA also returns 6-8 junior forward Reeves Nelson, an all-conference forward and MVP candidate, and 6-9 junior forward Brendan Lane, who has appeared in 60 games.
“The strength of our team is obviously up front,” UCLA coach Ben Howland said. “We’ve got a lot of depth and a lot of size starting with Josh. He, I think has improved as an offensive player during the springtime and the fall. A lot more back-to-the-basket moves.
“Reeves returns. There are high expectations for him. We have the two Wear twins that are both 6’10”, and have done a great job getting themselves ready for this year.
“Then we back those two up again with Stover who started half the games last year for us and Brendan Lane. So we’re going to play big.”
Arizona State coach Herb Sendek is experimenting with 6-7 Kyle Cain at power forward and 7-0 Ruslan Pateev at center. The Sun Devils have also used Pateev in tandem with 7-2 sophomore Jordan Bachynski.
Oregon added 6-11 junior Tony Woods, a transfer from Wake Forest, while USC picked up 7-foot junior college center Dewayne Dedmon.
Washington brought in freshmen Jernard Jarreau, a 6-10 forward, and 265-pound, 6-9 center Shawn Kemp Jr. The Huskies are also relying heavily on 7-foot junior Aziz N’Diaye.
While some teams are stacked in the middle, teams such as Arizona, California and Washington State have concerns inside.
Wildcats coach Sean Miller may take a look at a three-guard lineup after 6-11 center Kyryl Natyazhko and 6-8 freshman Sidiki Johnson struggled in last week’s exhibition loss to Seattle Pacific.
Senior Harper Kamp, a 6-8 forward, is the Golden Bears best low-post player. However, he’s nursing a knee injury that forced him to sit out most of the team’s offseason trip to Sweden, Norway and Denmark.
“Harper, unfortunately, just has a knee that’s not very — not great,” Cal coach Mike Montgomery said. “So it’s going to be important that that thing doesn’t get sore because if it gets sore, sometimes it takes a little while to get him back.
“At the same time, he’s got to practice hard enough to get his timing and get a feel and a flow. So there will be sometimes when it hurts him. He tries to protect himself now and he doesn’t jump all the time because jumping is something that potentially bothers him.”
Photo credit: University of Utah