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Utah basketball: Christian PoPoola Jr. wants to bring 'winning mentality' to Runnin' Utes

Published April 25, 2017 8:34 pm
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

After a long recruiting process, Christian PoPoola Jr. could be forgiven for needing a break.



But after signing with Utah on Saturday, the senior three-star guard has a different frame of mind.

"A lot of people feel like they need some time to breathe," he said in an interview with The Tribune. "For me, it's more like it's time to get to work. I'm really focused on getting ready and make sure we live up to the winning mentality that Utah stands for"

That's the mentality that Utah basketball was looking for in recruiting PoPoola, who is the third addition in the 2017 signing class and will provide a necessary body at guard for a team lacking in the backcourt.

A three-time state champion at Bishop Gorman High in Las Vegas, PoPoola has plenty of experience on winners. He also played a season at Lone Peak High in Alpine, during which he said "I learned more about basketball in that one year than any other."

Growing up, PoPoola had the chance to play in gyms with Shabazz Muhammad, Stephen Zimmerman and Zach Collins — all Bishop Gorman stars who played, or are moving on to play, in the NBA.

"It's really inspiring to see your teammates go out and do good things," he said. "I want to be one of those guys who can do special things on the court."

Once, PoPoola thought that court would be at the Marriott Center.

He committed to BYU last August, drawn by both familiarity with Utah County surroundings and a relationship with assistant Quincy Lewis, his coach at Lone Peak. But he didn't sign when he was expected in November — PoPoola said he thought BYU's backcourt personnel wouldn't allow him to get chances to play with the ball in his hands.

"They had two dominant ball-handlers," he said. "I felt like I needed more space on the court."

He may get that at Utah, which returns only a few guards in Sedrick Barefield, Parker Van Dyke and Gabe Bealer. Transfer Justin Bibbins is a true point, but PoPoola said the opportunity to play was a big selling point as they re-recruited him this spring. He also felt comfortable with Larry Krystkowiak and his staff. He had always liked the campus and facilities at Utah, he said.

At the time of his commitment, PoPoola said he had offers from Boise State, Washington State and BYU.

PoPoola said he's close with fellow signee and Las Vegas prospect Donnie Tillman, and the duo is looking forward to playing together. He's also known Barefield for a long time, and is friendly with forward Kyle Kuzma.

He hopes his signing amounts to substance, starting when he arrives this summer. While he's expected to add defense and athletic ability to the backcourt (as well as needed length), he's working on his shooting to become a better all-around player.

"For me, I want to go out there and win," PoPoola said. "They had kind of a good season last year, but they could've done a lot more. I know we're young, but with Donnie Tillman and couple guys that I've kinda grown up with, we want to try to lead and definitely want to bring it back to that winning mentality."

kgoon@sltrib.com
Twitter: @kylegoon

 

 

 

 

 

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