<strong>They’ve brought a lot of high character to our team and they’re program kids that I’ll always remember buying into something early on.</strong> – Larry Krystkowiak

SALT LAKE CITY — Saving the best for last. That’s how Utah senior Brandon Taylor views the final Pac-12 road trip of his career. Los Angeles is his hometown, and he’s looking forward to Thursday’s game at UCLA and Sunday’s tilt at USC.

“It means a lot. It’s just a great opportunity for my family to come out and see me one last time while I’m playing college basketball,” Taylor said. “It’s going to be fun. It’s going to be a fun atmosphere. It’s just going to be good to get back home.”

Taylor added that he’s glad it’s Utah last regular-season journey outside the state and said it’s the only trip he’s looked forward to.

“Bittersweet,” the starting guard noted. “Definitely bittersweet.”

The former Pacific Hill High School star isn’t the only one enjoying a final college homecoming this week. Senior swingman Dakarai Tucker, who graduated from Serra High School, is also making his last trip.

Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak, who recruited both Los Angeles-area players to the program for the 2012-13 season, has a special appreciation for the duo.

“It seems like yesterday and then you do the math on it and it’s obviously their senior year winding down,” Krystkowiak said. “They’ve brought a lot of high character to our team and they’re program kids that I’ll always remember buying into something early on.”

Taylor and Tucker have been a big part of the program’s restoration under Krystkowiak, who mentioned that both have played a lot of minutes and made a lot of threes for the Utes.

Taylor, in particular, is making his mark among Utah’s career statistical leaders. He’s third in 3-pointers attempted (566), fourth in 3-pointers made (223), fifth in steals (136), tied for eighth in assists (382), 11th in games played (123) and 26th in scoring (1,157).

Despite returning to his California roots this week, Taylor isn’t reminiscing about his college experience.

“I try to stay away from thinking like that because you’ll start to really be like ‘dang, it’s coming to an end,’” Taylor said. “I’m not really thinking about it like that. I’m really just going with the flow each and every day.”

The Utes (19-7, 8-5), after all, are in the midst of the Pac-12 race. They have five regular season games left to play. Then come the conference and NCAA tournaments.

That’s when Taylor plans to look back and be like “I did it.” In the meantime, he insists there are a lot of things left to accomplish — as a team and individually.

This season, Taylor is averaging 9.1 points, 3.6 assists, 2.4 rebounds and 1.3 steals. Tucker, meanwhile, averages 5.2 points and 2.5 rebounds, and provides a spark off the bench. He’s made 130 3-pointers in his career.

Taking their games back to California one more time as Utes is a big deal for both players.

“It’s fun for those guys to get home,” Krystkowiak said.

Even so, Tucker insists it’s still a business trip.

“It’s going to be a great opportunity for me to play in front of my family and friends,” Tucker said. “But I just have to treat it as another game. We have to just stay focused. We’ve still got goals to accomplish this year. So this trip is no different, just another trip back home.”

Two other players on the roster are also from the Los Angeles area. Junior forward Chris Reyes is from La Verne, California, and freshman big man Jayce Johnson graduated from Santa Monica High School.

Delon Wright, who won the Bob Cousy Award last season before moving on to the NBA’s Toronto Raptors, is also from L.A.

“There’s a lot of players in that area and we’ve tried to tap into it and we will continue to do so,” Krystkowiak said.

Email: dirk@desnews.com

Twitter: @DirkFacer