Jan. 5, 2004
By Jesse Christensen, Sports Information Student Assistant
When you usually hear stories about a college athlete, they tend to revolve around only his or her sport. But, this is not the case with Utah forward Richard Chaney. You see, Chaney is as well known for being a fan of Utah sports as he is for starring in them.
Come to any women's volleyball match or basketball game and you are bound to see the 6-4, 195-pounder making more racket than anyone else in the stands-maybe even all of them combined. "I'm a fan," explodes Chaney. "Some of the women's sports don't get a lot of support and I try and do my part. I try to be an all-around supporter of athletics. Before coming to Utah, I had never been to a volleyball match. Now I love watching our team when they compete. Kim Turner is my favorite player on the team to watch."
But don't be mislead by the super fan syndrome, because despite being a vocal fan Chaney's first love is still basketball. The majority of his time is spent on the court practicing the game that brought him to the U. "Basketball is the main reason why I came to Utah. I used to watch the Ute games on TV and the offense is similar to what I ran in high school," Chaney remarks. "Coach Majerus and Tim (Drisdom) are also big reasons why I chose the University of Utah. Having great coaches and close friends on the team has really helped me from becoming homesick. Plus, Utah has great fans."
This season is looking very promising for the talented player. Chaney has already started in each of Utah's contests, averaging 30.0 minutes. Against Stony Brook, his late three-pointer sealed the deal as Utah grabbed a 51-48 victory over the Seawolves. Chaney sparked the team's offense with 15 of his 21 points coming in the second half. It was a new career-high for the sophomore.
Not only has Chaney been getting the minutes and points, but he seems to be red hot with his shot. Through five games, the small forward was shooting a blistering 40 percent from beyond the arc and 61.4 percent from the field. The numbers leave no surprise to the fact Chaney is first in scoring (12.4 ppg) on the team. "This season, I'm striving to become one of the best swing men and defenders in the Mountain West Conference," admits Chaney. With the start Chaney has produced, the season's goals look very accomplishable.
On the other side of the floor, Chaney's tenacity has him leading the team is blocked shots (3) and steals (6). If that isn't enough, this defensive-stopper is also second on the team in rebounds (3.6 rpg).
In addition to an expanded role with the x's and o's, Chaney is also being asked to do more off the floor for in his second year. With the loss of three seniors from last season, Chaney is expected and eager to establish himself as more of a team leader. "I have to be more of a leader this season," says Chaney. "We have a lot of freshmen coming in, and with Tim (Frost) and Nick (Jacobson) graduating this spring, I'm really going to have to pick up the leadership role."
With only one year of experience, who would have thought Chaney would have emerged as one of Utah's go to guys?
The signs were promising last season, when Chaney averaged 18.4 minutes per game while appearing in all 33 contests. The Los Angeles, Calif., native was a significant contributor to the Utes both as a scorer and rebounder. He scored in double figures six times last season and posted his best game against in-state rival Weber State, when he dropped 17 points in a matter of only 17 minutes. He also added four rebounds, an assist and a steal against the Wildcats.
"Richard has improved over last season, but he has to mature emotionally for him to excel," says Head Coach Rick Majerus. "I like his conditioning and attention to weights. He's a rarity in that he could develop both excellent inside and perimeter games. He should also be an excellent rebounder, but Richard's going to have to make defense his number one priority."
During the off-season, Chaney returned home to concentrate on his game and conditioning. "The coaching staff wanted me to focus on gaining mass last summer, so I went home to my mom's home-cooking," jokes Chaney. "I had great strength coaches back home to help me with my workouts. This has played a big role in my improvement in rebounding, blocking out and overall defense."
Chaney is tough on himself though, admitting there's always room for improvement. "I'm really trying to improve my on-ball defense," explains Chaney. "Defending the ball is something I want to become one of my strengths." Chaney is working to build on an effective defensive effort from a year ago, when he accumulated 12 blocked shots, 14 steals and 116 rebounds over the season.
With a promising college career underway, it should be no surprise Chaney was one of the best players to come out of Verbum Dei High School, which is the same school former Ute All-American Andre Miller attended. "I met him at a summer camp and we talked about me being recruited by Utah," says Chaney. "He informed me about Majerus and the great opportunities involved. I got the impression that Utah was a great school and somewhere I could really improve."
Like Miller, who steered Utah to NCAA Tournament appearances and conference championships all four years of his career, Chaney is hoping to be an integral part another great run at the U. After the Utes won a piece of the Mountain West Conference title and advanced to the second round of the NCAAs last season, perhaps Utah's first Sweet 16 appearance since 1998 could be within reach for this year's team.
With his maturing game, Chaney is giving fans reasons to cheer, much the same way he does when he's in the stands. His energy and talent have the Huntsman Center Hooligans and others cheering all the way out of the arena.