Giacoletti's diligence impresses Bogut

Updated: September 7, 2004, 6:02 PM ET
By Andy Katz | ESPN.com

Flying to Melbourne for 20 hours in May. Racing to Athens for two games in three days in August.

Andrew Bogut
Andrew Bogut was a solid contributor for Australia during the 2004 Olympics.
That's not exactly the kind of travel one takes from cash-strapped Eastern Washington for one player -- who is already on the roster. But Ray Giacoletti isn't in Cheney, Wash., anymore. The demands and pressures in Salt Lake City are a bit more intense.

Because Rick Majerus recruited him, getting Andrew Bogut to commit for his sophomore season was Giacoletti's No. 1 priority when he took the Utah job in late March.

Bogut said Giacoletti didn't have to fly to Australia for a family barbecue. He said Giacoletti didn't have to fight security in Greece to get five minutes with him after a game and then 15 minutes outside of the Olympic Village later in the trip.

But, let's just say, it didn't hurt.

"I had already decided pretty much before Athens that I was going to come back,'' Bogut said by phone from Utah this week. "But it definitely helped that he took the time to fly to Australia.

"It showed great character that he was serious about the things he said to me."

Bogut is probably just one more and done at Utah. But Giacoletti couldn't take any chances.

"I went to Australia to meet his mom and dad like I would expect the same if I had a son and there was a new coach,'' said Giacoletti, although he didn't go to every player's hometown in the offseason.

"It was important that we had a good relationship,'' said Giacoletti, who led the Eagles to their first-ever NCAA Tournament berth after winning the Big Sky Conference tournament last March. "I flew to Australia for 19 hours, got there and was there for 20 hours. I went to his house where he was asleep for half the day after getting back from training camp. We had a barbecue, and that's when he told me he was coming back.''

Bogut wasn't a star on the ninth-place Australian Olympic team, but he showed he should be a first-round pick with the potential to play his way into the lottery in the June NBA draft.

Getting Bogut in a Utah uniform in Giacoletti's first season, even if it's only one more season, was well worth the jet lag. Bogut could and should be one of the top two players in the Mountain West, along with New Mexico's Danny Granger. He is likely the difference between the NIT and the NCAA for the Utes.

Giacoletti is under pressure to replicate Majerus' successful reign. The Utes missed the NCAAs only three times from 1991-2004 and reached the '98 title game.

The 6-foot-10, 242-pound Bogut averaged 12.5 points and 9.9 rebounds a year ago for the Utes, who lost to Boston College in the NCAA Tournament first round.

Bogut had his moments in the Olympics, too. After starting out slowly against Greece (3 of 10 for 11 points and five boards), Bogut made all seven shots and scored 16 points and grabbed 11 boards in a win over Angola.

He continued to be a steady presence for Australia, having his best two games against Puerto Rico (16 and 11) and Lithuania (21 points, nine rebounds in 35 minutes).

Giacoletti watched Bogut against Greece and Angola before leaving the morning he was playing the U.S. (where he scored 11 points and had eight rebounds in a 10-point loss to the Americans).

"I got there at 4 a.m., went to a Greek Orthodox Church by 9 a.m., slept for four to five hours and got to his game against Puerto Rico,'' Giacoletti said. "I watched the Greece game the next day and met with his parents, too. After the second game, I talked to him for five minutes. I went to the Olympic Village, but they wouldn't let me in, so he came out for 15 minutes.''

Bogut easily could have bolted for Europe after the Olympics. He said he received offers from some of the top teams in Europe like Benetton Treviso (Italy) and CSKA Moscow (Russia).

"They were throwing a lot of money toward me, but I made a decision to play one more year, and the main goal is to play in the NBA,'' Bogut said. "If it doesn't work out, then I'll go to Europe.''

Bogut said the offers were one-year deals, so getting out of a deal wouldn't have been a problem for the June draft. But he understands the nuances of the American pro game, knowing he needs to be a better defender and certainly stronger.

I knew (Bogut) was talented when I did individual work with him three weeks before school was out. But he's playing with so much confidence. The toughness he showed at the Olympics is the biggest thing I'm most impressed with, going against men.
Utah coach Ray Giacoletti
"Europe isn't big on weight training,'' Bogut said. "I know it will be a struggle financially, but I can survive the next nine months. We've got a great weight training program here so that will help me.''

So, too, will the change in tempo and the increased focus on his talents this season.

The Utes welcome back guard Marc Jackson after a one-year, self-imposed hiatus from Majerus. Returning in the backcourt is Tim Drisdom and Richard Chaney. But the offensive flow will go through Bogut. He doesn't have the oft-injured Tim Frost to buffer inside against, but he's hoping that returnee Chris Jackson, who is coming off back surgery last season, newcomer center Luke Nevill and forward Jake Schmidt will offer some production next to him.

"We won't be playing a field-goal percentage defensive game like coach Majerus,'' Bogut said of Giacoletti's plan. "We'll try and get up and pressure the ball, and not allow easy post entries so teams score easily. But we will get up and run.''

Bogut said his confidence rose against Puerto Rico, Lithuania and Angola. He said playing against the best international players, players who won't compare to the Mountain West and the rest of the NCAA, will help him become stronger mentally and physically.

"I knew he was talented when I did individual work with him three weeks before school was out,'' Giacoletti said. "But he's playing with so much confidence. The toughness he showed at the Olympics is the biggest thing I'm most impressed with, going against men.

"Bogut needs touches. He has to touch the ball every possession. If he does that, he'll make everybody else's job easier.''

Giacoletti ordered Bogut to rest as soon as he returned to Salt Lake City last week. Bogut went from Utah to the Australian Olympic team trials last May. He hasn't stopped since the Olympics. Bogut is only doing weight training, while the rest of the team is going through individual workouts and conditioning.

The lockdown ends next Monday. Bogut can't wait.

"I don't have anything else to do with my time so it's hard not being out there,'' Bogut said. "I'm counting down the days to next Monday.''

Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com.

Andy Katz | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com