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If the Utes were a little light on big men this past season, it's looking like they'll have a wealth of talent in the post next year.
Utah's latest commitment comes from its own back yard, as http://www.slccbruins.com/roster.aspx?rp_id=1002">6-foot-10 Salt Lake Community College big man Tyler Rawson is expected to join the Runnin' Utes this fall.
"Being from Utah, it means a lot to me to be able to stay close to family," he said. "But I'll also be playing in one of the best conferences in the country."
Rawson is coming off a sophomore season in which he averaged 15.9 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 2.6 apg, 1.5 bpg and shooting 54 percent from the field. The 20-year-old had a coming-out party in the Bruins' http://www.sltrib.com/sports/3689992-155/kragthorpe-slcc-comes-together-for-another">run to the NJCAA championships in Kansas: He scored 13 points or more in each of the five games, and had double-doubles in the semi-final and final.
Conner Toolson, a UVU-bound guard, was the tournament's MVP, but in coach Todd Phillips said Rawson "was the key to our run. He was a monster."
Rawson graduated from Utah County hoops factory American Fork in 2014, and spent a year at Southern Utah before transferring to SLCC this offseason. Phillips said the big man had a goal of finding "the right fit" at his next college, even suggesting he might want to play next at Utah.
But to get to the next level, Rawson said, he had to be a little more selfish.
"I guess more or less I worked on creating my own shot and just trying to score it a bunch of ways," Rawson said. "A lot of times when I passed it, my coaches got pissed. So I just worked on getting the ball inside, driving and things like that, and I improved a lot."
Utah assistant Tommy Connor has had a longstanding relationship with Rawson, from when he played with his son Jake Connor in AAU ball. The Utes have long talked to Rawson about walking on, but finally offered him a scholarship during SLCC's postseason run.
Rawson began his career at SUU, where he averaged 7.4 ppg and 4.1 rbg in only 17.1 minutes per game. He also led the T-Birds in blocks (35) in the 2014-15 season.
He acknowledged he grew up a BYU fan, and both his parents raised him to cheer for the Cougars. But as BYU recruited his American Fork teammate Ryan Andrus and more or less left him on the sideline, that loyalty began to waiver. Eventually, after staying in contact with the Utes over the years, he began to envision himself in red.
"I really think Utah can do a lot for me in helping to make a name for myself," he said. "It's a great feeling to know I'm going there."
Phillips sees Rawson's fit as a good one in Utah's system.
"He can do so many things," Phillips said. "At 6-foot-10, he runs the floor really well. I think he took something like 10 charges in five games at the national tournament. He fits well in terms of the fundamentals and skill level Utah looks for in its guys. He can fill a lot of holes."
Rawson delivers some flexibility with his size: Phillips describes him as a 4-man who can play some 5. Rawson said coaches expect that he'll compete with Kyle Kuzma for minutes at the 4.
The front court looks a little more stacked next year: Utah has returners in 6-foot-9 Kuzma, 6-foot-8 Brekkott Chapman, 6-foot-7 Chris Reyes and will pull redshirts off 6-foot-11 Jayce Johnson and 6-foot-9 Makol Mawien. There's also 6-foot-10 David Collette, who should become eligible to play in late December.
But Rawson's commitment also begs a question: The Utes have too many scholarships committed for next year at the moment, and with the wealth at the post, it seems to signal a forthcoming transfer or retirement.
Utah hasn't yet acknowledged any offseason transfers. The Utes have seen at least one departure via transfer or retirement every offseason since Larry Krystkowiak took over the program.
Rawson joins an incoming class of junior college guard Jojo Zamora, prep school wing Devon Daniels and returning missionary Parker Van Dyke. Johnson joined the program in December, and Collette (Utah State) and guard Sedrick Barefield (SMU) are transfers who should become eligible following the 2016 fall semester.
Collette is not currently eligible to receive a scholarship, and it's not yet clear if the Utes plan to put him on scholarship next year when he's able to play.