Utah Week: Players Not Returning

Posted by AMurawa on August 29th, 2012

For the third straight year, Utah underwent rampant roster turnover in the offseason, with six transfers joining one senior (who had been dismissed from the team in the middle of last season) on their way out the door. There is a subtle difference this year, however, as the changes to the roster should benefit the program next season, allowing the new coaching staff to begin building with their own players rather than with the scraps they were able to assemble late in the recruiting period last offseason. In essence, last year was an audition period for all of the players on the roster, determining not only whether the coaching staff wanted each player back, but whether those players were interested in returning to the rebuilding job that is Utah basketball. Below, we’ll take a brief look at all seven players (not including Blake Wilkinson, a freshman last season who departed for an two-year LDS mission in May) from last year who will not return to the Utes.

Josh Watkins – Watkins was dismissed by Larry Ktystkowiak on January 18 last season for an undisclosed team violation which was just another in a long line of issues that brought Watkins to that point. The lone active senior on the roster last season, Watkins was supposed to be an example for his younger teammates, doing all the right things on a team where everything else was going wrong. Still, Watkins played a valuable role for Krystkowiak last year; the dismissal of the team’s most viable offensive threat in the middle of the season showed everybody else that nobody was above the team. Watkins, to his credit, completed his degree in May and acknowledged that despite his dismissal he still regards Krystkowiak as a “great coach.”

Chris Hines, Utah

Chris Hines Was The Utes’ Most Prolific Three-Point Shooter Last Year, But He’ll Be Playing His Senior Year At Drake Instead (Stephen Dunn, Getty Images)

Chris Hines – Following his graduation in May, Hines took advantage of the NCAA rule that allows graduates to transfer without having to sit out a year. As a result, the team’s most prolific three-point shooter from 2011-12 will be matriculating at Drake this season. While an experienced veteran like Hines could always be valuable, the fact that the Utes have transfers Aaron Dotson, Glen Dean and Jared DuBois ready to step in this season lessens the blow considerably.

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Utah: 2011-12 Post-Mortem

Posted by AMurawa on April 17th, 2012

What Went Wrong

Much of what went wrong in the Utah program that led to this season’s 6-25 debacle happened prior to new head coach Larry Krystkowiak’s first game on the sidelines at the Huntsman Center. Two years ago, following a disappointing and underachieving 14-17 season, five Utes, including the team’s two leading scorers, transferred out of Jim Boylen’s program. Then, following a 2010-11 season that took a step down from there with a 13-18 record that led to Boylen’s demise, six more players, including leading scorer and rebounder Will Clyburn, bolted from Salt Lake City. As a result, when the Krystkowiak era tipped off in November, there was a serious lack of talent in Ute basketball uniforms. Throw in the fact that 7’4” former Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year David Foster missed this season with a foot injury and Utah had to rely on just three returnees with any experience– point guard Josh Watkins, center Jason Washburn, and guard Chris Hines – along with six newcomers and a handful of walk-ons. Then Watkins, who was the team’s leading scorer and assist man, was dismissed prematurely in January. In short, this Ute team never really had a chance in its first year in the Pac-12. Even in a conference with a talent level near historic lows, the Utes just didn’t have the horses to hang with the bulk of the conference.

Jason Washburn, Utah

Jason Washburn Was A Lone Bright Spot On An Otherwise Miserable Ute Team (Associated Press)

What Went Right

There was a time, well into December, where it was questionable whether the Utes had a chance at earning so much as a single win against a Division I team. Then they strung together two straight home wins against Idaho State and Portland (admittedly, two really bad teams) before going on to win three conference games, including wins over Washington State and Stanford that go down as significantly improbable events. As absurd as it may seem, that 6-25 record is actually an overachievement for this team.

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Pac-12 Morning Five: 12.07.11 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on December 7th, 2011

  1. Tuesday night saw the Pac-12 conference lose yet another non-conference game, as Marquette knocked off Washington by a bucket in a back-and-forth game that provided a nice nightcap to the Jimmy V Classic in New York. The Huskies had plenty of chances down the stretch to earn a more positive outcome, but three turnovers on their last six possessions, plus a wild Abdul Gaddy attempt on the final play with Lorenzo Romar sitting on his last timeout put the Huskies on their way to their second straight defeat. With Duke on deck on Saturday, Romar’s club has its work cut out for it.
  2. In what is getting to be a tradition here with the P12 M5, we’ve got player suspensions to talk about. Oh boy! First, in an announcement that surprised exactly no one, UCLA suspended Reeves Nelson indefinitely for the second time this season. It was originally reported that Nelson had been dismissed from the team, but head coach Ben Howland corrected that later in the day. Nelson was benched for the second half of Saturday’s loss to Texas for, among other issues, blowing a defensive assignment at the end of the first half that led to a Clint Chapman dunk, then was later seen laughing on the bench as fans in the crowd called out for him. Nevertheless, he remained supportive of his teammates from the bench, leading the cheers down the stretch as the Bruins attempted to mount a comeback. With Howland and Nelson clearly at odds and the end of the semester at hand, it will be interesting to keep an eye on the UCLA program to see if the junior forward becomes the latest Bruin big man to leave the program.
  3. Meanwhile in Tucson, just a day after head coach Sean Miller hinted that point guard Josiah Turner might be on his way back into the starting lineup, the freshman missed practice and was suspended for Arizona‘s game tonight against Florida. Turner had already been benched for a game against Ball State earlier in the season for behavioral issues, and reportedly has been kicked out of practice on one other occasion. Turner had been starting to come around on the court in recent games, and the Florida game would have been an excellent chance for him to announce his arrival to a national television crowd, but despite all his talent, the youngster can’t get out of his own way so far. Jordin Mayes will need to take on a bigger role for the Wildcats in Turner’s absence.
  4. The Daily Wildcat noted that this Arizona/Florida series is the result of a friendship between Miller and Florida head coach Billy Donovan. The two first met when Donovan was a senior at Providence and Miller took a recruiting visit to the school, and has continued throughout the years as the players went on to become two of the best coaches in the land. For now, the series doesn’t extend beyond next year’s game when Florida returns the trip, but here’s hoping these two schools can make this an annual affair. We can never have too many interesting non-conference matchups.
  5. Lastly, in the wake of Monday’s suspension of their leading scorer Josh Watkins, Utah is preparing to take on Cal State Fullerton tonight. While Watkins worked out with assistant coach Andy Hill yesterday, the rest of his team was preparing to move on without him, at least temporarily. Freshman Kareem Storey will take over at the point, and he’ll need to play a big role for the Utes, but more importantly, the team needs to improve their effort, according to head coach Larry Krystkowiak, who noted that the coaching staff has had to “coach effort more than you’d like to.” Junior forward Dijon Farr was less diplomatic, saying that “some people just quit.” With a long slog of likely losses ahead, it would be quite a testament to Krystkowiak if he can get this team back on track, at least in the effort department.
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Pac-12 Morning Five: 11.17.11 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on November 17th, 2011

  1. The Reeves Nelson suspension lasted a total of one game, as the mercurial junior power forward was reinstated on Wednesday after having missed UCLA’s Tuesday night loss to Middle Tennessee State. He’ll practice with the team today and travel with the team to play in the Maui Invitational early next week. In a statement announcing the decision, head coach Ben Howland said that Nelson “expressed to me in our meeting earlier that he desires to be a better person and better teammate going forward and, given that, I feel as though I should give him that opportunity.” Nelson issued his own statement saying that he is “grateful to Coach Howland to have this opportunity to improve and work on being a positive force for our team.” With all the negativity surrounding the Bruin program in recent days, it remains to be seen just how long this kumbaya moment will last.
  2. Utah played its first real competition of the season on Wednesday night when it traveled to Boise State, and not surprisingly, the young Utes (I can’t type that phrase without thinking of Joe Pesci) struggled mightily, losing by 21 points to a similarly inexperienced Bronco squad. In looking for a bright spot for Larry Krystkowiak’s team, one might point to either freshman guard Anthony Odunsi (14 points, four assists, three threes) or junior college transfer Dijon Farr (12 points, five rebounds), but the fact is that Utah turned the ball over 19 times on roughly 69 possessions, grabbed just 16% of their offensive rebound opportunities and didn’t do a great job on the defensive glass either (63.3 DR%). Single digit wins on the season are the unfortunate likelihood for Utah.
  3. Things went much better for Oregon State in the final regional game of the Legends Classic pseudo-tournament, as the Beavers outlasted Hofstra behind a career-high 35-point performance from junior guard Jared Cunningham. Sophomore forward Devon Collier also posted a career-high with 25 points, and junior center Joe Burton continued his strong start to the season with five points, ten rebounds and a career-high of his own in assists, with 11. OSU now heads to the Meadowlands for the championship rounds of the tourney, with a matchup with Texas awaiting in the semifinals on Saturday and either Vanderbilt or North Carolina State in the next round on Monday.
  4. With the early signing period now officially closed, every school in the conference has at least one 2012 recruit committed. Every school save for Washington, that is. But Lorenzo Romar still has a couple lines in the water, with Anthony Bennett and Zena Edosomwan a couple of top 100 recruits still on the Huskies’ radar. On Wednesday, another name reappeared as a possibility for Romar again, as former St. John’s commitment Norvel Pelle, who was unable to qualify immediately for the Red Storm, officially de-committed and reopened his recruiting. The 6’10”, 210-pound power forward originally chose St. John’s over Washington, so as long as he can get his academic house in order, it seems like the Huskies would have a good shot at landing him the second time around.
  5. We started in Los Angeles at the top of the Morning Five, and we’ll wind up there again as I want to take a moment to highlight one of my favorites youngsters thus far in the season: USC’s freshman wing Byron Wesley. Wesley has been compared to last year’s senior defensive stopper Marcus Simmons repeatedly by head coach Kevin O’Neill, and he’s been a stalwart already on the defensive end in just his first two collegiate games. His offensive game is still very much a work in progress, but he’s got a strong frame that belies his youth and a motor that does not stop. If Wesley can carry over the work ethic he displays during games to practice and beyond, he has the ability to be an all-conference performer on both ends of the floor by the time he is an upperclassman.
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RTC Conference Primers: #6 – Pac-12

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 1st, 2011

Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-12 and Mountain West conferences as well as a Pac-12 microsite staffer. You can find him on Twitter @AMurawa.

Reader’s Take I

With only two of the ten players named to last year’s All-Pac-10 team returning, the race for the conference player of the year is wide open.


Top Storylines

  • Twelve Is The New Ten: After 33 seasons, college basketball fans on the west coast are getting used to calling their conference the Pac-12. With Colorado and Utah along for the ride (and currently taking their lumps in football), gone are the days of the home-and-away round-robin schedule on the basketball side of things. But lest the traditionalists complain too much, it could have been much different, as schools from Oklahoma and Texas (obviously the very definition of “Pacific” states) flirted with changing their allegiance for the second consecutive year before heading back to the Big 12.
  • Fresh Blood: As mentioned above in our poll question, the conference loses eight of the ten players on last year’s all-Pac-10 team, with just Jorge Gutierrez of Cal and UCLA’s Reeves Nelson returning. In other words, it is time for a new set of players to step up and take the reins of the league. The most likely candidates are a talented group of freshman guards – names like Josiah Turner and Nick Johnson at Arizona, Tony Wroten, Jr. at Washington, Jabari Brown at Oregon, Norman Powell at UCLA and Chasson Randle at Stanford.

Jorge Gutierrez Is A Lightning Rod Of A Guard For Mike Montgomery's Golden Bears, And Big Things Are Expected.

  • The Carson Show On Hold. A seventh highly-touted freshman guard, however, is stuck in limbo. Arizona State’s Jahii Carson has yet to be cleared for practice while an investigation continues into an online course the 5’10” point guard took this summer at Adams State in Colorado. That school has yet to release his course transcript, and until that happens, Carson is unable to practice with the Sun Devils, making an already difficult situation (being regarded as a savior for a team coming off a 12-19 campaign) even worse.
  • Hard Times for Kevin Parrom: Sometimes, just when everything is going well, life conspires to deal you a set of circumstances that just suck. It’s not bad enough that Parrom took a couple of bullets on September 24 during a home invasion, while in the Bronx visiting his sick mother. But on October 16, Parrom’s mom then passed away after a long battle with cancer. While both incidents will have lasting effects on Parrom, the bullet wounds are the biggest obstacle to him getting back on the court, with bullet fragments lodged in his right leg, a boot on his right foot, nerve damage and his left hand currently wrapped up to protect lacerations sustained in the attack. Parrom is rehabilitating his injuries and as of this writing, no hard timetable is set for his return. But if anybody is due for a good break or two, Parrom’s the guy. Get well soon, Kevin.

Predicted Order of Finish

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Pac-12 Team Previews: Utah

Posted by AMurawa on October 26th, 2011

Over the next two weeks, we’ll be previewing each of the Pac-12 teams as we head into the season.

Utah Utes

Strengths.  Size. Oh man, does Utah have a lot of size. Start with a 7’3” behemoth in the middle in David Foster, add 6’10” junior Jason Washburn who can spell Foster or play alongside him, and toss in – well, there’s really not all that much size behind those two. But with those two prowling the lane, the Utes have an imposing frontcourt duo that are a threat to block any shot taken in the paint.

Weaknesses. Where to begin? First, this is an inexperienced squad, featuring three incoming freshman and three junior college transfers who are expected to get time. Second, while the Utes return senior Josh Watkins at the point, he struggled in his first season in Salt Lake City last year, shooting under 30% from beyond the arc while turning the ball over too much. And, lastly (for now at least), even though Foster and Washburn are big, they’re injury-prone, struggle with conditioning and are of limited effectiveness on the offensive end.

David Foster

David Foster Is An Intimidating Defensive Player, But Utah Is Missing Offensive Firepower (credit: Tom Smart, Deseret News)

Nonconference Tests.  The highlight of the nonconference slate is a berth in the inaugural Battle for Atlantis in the Bahamas, where they will open with Harvard in the first round before facing either Massachusetts or Florida State on day two, with a third opponent to be determined. Beyond that, there is the in-state rivalry game with BYU, a couple of games at WAC opponents (Boise State and Fresno State) and not much else. Which is good – this team deserves a bit of a break in the non-conference. Read the rest of this entry »

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