Nevill Comes East and Puts on a Show

By David Scott - December 09, 2006


Hang Time

KINGSTON, R.I. - His nickname is Niffty, his accent is Australian and his game, according to his coach, is still in its formative stages.

But Utah’s 7-foot-1, 265-pound sophomore, Luke Nevill had his East Coast unveiling on Saturday at the Ryan Center and the overall reaction after he went 10-for-14 from the field for a season-high 25 points and 16 rebounds (in 38 minutes), was one of awe.

Or more precisely, for at least one observer, one of Uwe.

“He reminds me of (7-foot-1, 245-pound German) Uwe Blab, when he was at Indiana,” said Rhode Island coach, Jim Baron, invoking a name familiar to hoops fans from the 80s. “Nevill’s very skilled, very smart, very active around the basket and definitely a pro prospect.”

It’s a shame there were only two pro scouts who requested credentials for Saturday’s game because Utah rarely travels to these parts. (And after an unevenly officiated game, it may be a while before the Utes return East.) Nevill will being playing for pay in the NBA at some point - hopefully after a couple of more years in the Utah system.

“Luke’s a pretty special guy and he’s just a sophomore,” said Utah coach, ray Giacoletti. “He’s still learning how to play the game, but he’s getting better and better.”

A native of Perth, Australia, Nevill came to the states as an exchange student to Kell HS in Marietta, Georgia. He red-shirted his first season in Salt Lake City and averaged 11.6 ppg and 6.6 rpg as a freshman last season. This year, he’s at 17.7 and 8.1 (entering the URI game) and has yet to be held under 14 points in any game.

According to Giacoletti, his Up and Over from Down Under has only truly been playing the game for seven years. But he’s already giving rise to comparisons to Utah’s last, great big man, Andrew Bogut.

“It was a struggle against him,” said the Ram who drew the Nevill assignment for much of the day, 6-foot-10, 220-pound senior, Darrell Harris. “I had to keep moving and keep on fronting him.”

Harris - despite the impressive, efficient numbers from the seven-footer he shadowed - did yeoman’s work on Nevill (aided by a double team each time he touched the ball) and came up huge at the end of the game with a waning seconds block down low in overtime. That block preserved the gritty win for Rhody, 85-84. “He’s a big dude,” said Harris. “His arms are just so long.”

So too is the road Nevill says he still needs to travel. “I’m working my way up,” he said after the game. “It’s going to be a long road and I need to get bigger and stronger. But I’m improving mostly every game.”

Giacoletti would like to see some of that improvement come on the defensive side - where his big man seems to get a bit lost (he’s got just seven blocks in eight games). But the third-year coach was encouraged by the offensive rebounding (nine) of his stud center on Saturday before a crowd of 3,257.

“Luke’s game impacts the whole team,” said Utah’s lone senior, Ricky Johns. “It’s big when you have someone like to go to inside.”

Now, Nevill will be returning to Utah to refine his game and help the youthful Utes learn how to win the close ones. He will do it far from the bright lights and magnifying glass of the East Coast college hoops cognoscenti.

We’re guessing the next time he comes out this way, a few more NBA types will be in the building. We’d urge them to get their credentials now.

. . . Utah head coach Ray Giacoletti tread on some treacherous turf in the post-game when he called the Atlantic 10 officiating crew “gutless” for their non-call of a Ram hack on Luke Nevill in the waning seconds. “In 21 years of coaching, that was as gutless as I’ve ever seen. Print it,” said Giacoletti, who was also careful to point out that the non-call was not the reason his Utes fell to 3-5. “It’s the first time I’ve ever seen anything like that in 21 years.”

The referees for the game were D.J. Carstensen, Mike Eades and George Harry. They called a total of 54 fouls in the 45 minutes of play, and 26 of the whistles were blown against Utah.

With infrequent trips to the East coast, Hang Time asked Giacoletti post-game if he plans on returning out this way in the future. “Oh, sure, we’ll come back East.”

. . . Four of Utah’s five losses have come in the final 30 seconds of games and they now have two one-point losses and two three-point defeats.

. . . The Shaun Green shot to force OT was almost identical to the shot by Houston’s Oliver Lafayette, who beat the Rams on a 3-pointer back on Nov. 13 here at the Ryan Center. Lafayette’s was pegged at 30-feet, Green’s was probably about 27 feet. Daggers, both, but the 6-4 Rams overcame Green’s.

. . .Nevill displayed his interior post moves throughout the game, but none were prettier than his baby sky hook from the middle of the lane to tie the game at 67-67 with about 2:30 to go. It was his 20th and 21st points of the day.

Posted by David Scott at 06:15 PM on December 09, 2006
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