Another season has come and gone
We laughed, we cried, we sang the fight song
With a glimpse of what the future brings
We must wait a year to see it spring
COMMENTARY — The Runnin’ Utes’ season is now officially over, but only after an entertaining fireworks display at the Pac-12 Tournament.
Utah is the only 10-seed in Pac-12 history to make it to the semifinals of the Pac-12 Tournament. After beating No. 2-seed Cal in the quarterfinals, even Bill Walton was calling Utah the “Team of Destiny.”
The Runnin’ Utes thoroughly dominated the Oregon Ducks at home in the Huntsman Center the weekend prior to the Pac-12 Tournament. The Ducks then had the last laugh by putting an end to the Runnin’ Utes’ Cinderella-esque run through the conference tournament.
Oregon ending up winning it all in Vegas, finished with a 26-8 record, but still only got a 12-seed in the NCAA Tournament. Really? UCLA lost to Oregon in the conference final, resulting in a 25-9 record, and in the process lost one of their star players for the remainder of the season, yet UCLA ended up with a six-seed? I freely confess that I simply don’t get it. But I digress.
Back to the Runnin’ Utes. This year’s team had a dramatically different look than last year’s squad, with a substantial number of new faces. Mixed in with the underclassmen were five seniors that deserve a tip of the hat on their way out.
Jason Washburn has been a solid presence in the middle since his freshman year. I have always loved the way he ran the floor for a big man and I wish the guards would have rewarded him a little more often for doing so. He was also a good jump-shooter, with his range extending all the way to the 3-point arc.
Although Washburn became the 35th Runnin’ Ute to hit the 1,000-point mark near the end of the season, it was his improved defense this year that impressed me the most. In a competitive game against Arizona on the road to begin conference play, even the Pac-12 TV commentators were describing Washburn as the “best player on the court,” that game.
Washburn was named honorable mention All-Pac-12 and became the first Runnin’ Ute to receive any postseason recognition since Utah joined the Pac-12.
Jared DuBois only played at Utah for one year after graduating from Loyola Marymount last year. DuBois provided the most memorable highlight of the Pac-12 Tournament by draining a three as time ran out to force overtime against Cal.
Notwithstanding his offensive prowess on the court, he made a much bigger impact with his humanitarian efforts in providing food and clothing to Salt Lake’s homeless. DuBois even got his teammates involved, using their own pocket-money to buy food for those less fortunate.
Cedric Martin transferred to Utah for his last two years of eligibility and made the most of them. After starting every game last year and finishing as the third-leading scorer, it was not a given he would even be on this year’s squad with the overall change in personnel.
It was Martin’s gritty defense that earned him a steady spot in this year’s rotation. Often, Martin was asked to guard the other team’s most dangerous offensive player, and he relished his role as a stopper. He also endeared himself to my wife by throwing her a pink warm-up shirt for cancer awareness prior to one of last year’s games.
David Foster was a mountain of a man inside the paint. In his sophomore year he shattered Utah’s record for blocks in a single game and in a single season, finishing the year with 115. As a junior he had the second most blocks in a single season with 99 and finished as Utah’s career shot-blocking leader with 219. Too bad injuries kept him from competing his senior year or that career mark would have gone much, much higher.
Foster had a chance to play in Europe after his injury-shortened senior season. Married, and with a new baby, there were lots of reasons for him to take the money and run. Instead, Foster was granted a medical redshirt and returned to Utah for one more year. Alas, no good deed goes unpunished, and Foster sustained another injury that kept him from playing out his senior year.
Ryan Osterloh is the lone local boy in this year’s graduating class. Osterloh played for Skyline High and then played two years for the Salt Lake Community College. He walked on to the Runnin’ Ute squad midway through his junior season. I love the determination and resolve it takes to walk-onto a team.
While ABBA so famously sang, “thank you for the music,” I will simply say thank you to these fine young men for lending their talents to the University of Utah and giving us fans something to cheer about.
Dwayne Vance is a sports commentator. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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