SALT LAKE CITY — In June of 2010, on the very day it was announced that Utah would be joining the Pac-12, Jordan Loveridge and his parents were summoned to the office of basketball coach Jim Boylen. The West Jordan High star was being recruited by the Utes and his mother, LaTrill, said they were anticipating a scholarship offer while Jordan was participating in a camp up on the hill.
It didn’t happen.
“He told Jordan that ‘yesterday you were good enough to play for Utah but now, since we’re going into the Pac-12, you’re probably not good enough,’” recalls Loveridge’s father, Bill.
Boylen, he added, said that Jordan needed to get tougher and better in order to play at that level.
Loveridge was undeterred by the slight. The junior led West Jordan to the state finals that season and continued to draw heavy recruiting attention from other schools.
“It’s just someone’s opinion. If they don’t think you’re good enough for their team then you’re not going to be on that team,” Jordan said. “I guess it was more that Utah was going to try to get the best players possible to be able to compete on the Pac-12 level.”
Boylen, though, wasn’t deemed capable of doing so. After back-to-back losing seasons in the Mountain West Conference, he was fired. Weeks later, in April of 2011, Larry Krystkowiak was hired to coach the Utes.
On his first full day on the job, Krystkowiak and assistant coach Tommy Connor drove out to West Jordan and watched Loveridge play. Connor, who was the longtime coach at Westminster College, knew all about Loveridge and Krystkowiak trusted his judgment.
“He was the first student-athlete that I went to visit,” Krystkowiak said. “It was important for us to try to recruit some of the top players in our state.”
Krystkowiak noted that Loveridge went on to have a strong summer in AAU ball before his senior year and brought a lot of attention to himself. By then, however, Krystkowiak and his staff had developed a strong relationship with the Loveridge family.
That August, Loveridge officially accepted a scholarship offer from Utah. In a released announcement, he explained why he chose the Utes over other programs like BYU, Colorado, Hawaii and Utah State.
"When it came down to it, choosing the University of Utah just felt like the right fit for me," Loveridge stated. "I'm looking forward to helping Coach K and his staff reinstate the winning team tradition that Utah basketball fans expect."
Loveridge’s tenure with the Utes includes three consecutive seasons with 21 or more wins and a trip to the NCAA tournament’s Sweet 16. His 1,508 career points rank 15th on Utah’s all-time scoring list, an impressive feat considering it all came in the Pac-12 era.
“It’s been great,” Krystkowiak said. “He’s been one of those cornerstones in the years that we’ve been here.”
Loveridge plays his final home game with Utah Saturday night against Colorado. The four-year starter is capping off a stellar career that will land him among the program’s all-time leaders in scoring, 3-pointers made and games played.
Not bad for a guy who was once told he wasn’t good enough to play for the Utes.
“I don’t think recruiting is an exact science. Everybody’s got different opinions. There’s plenty of coaches that would love to be able to go back in time and do some things different,” Krystkowiak said. “It seemed like when I went to watch him that he was a strong kid that could shoot it. I’ve always been a fan of shooters with the 3-point line.”
Those were among many things, Krystkowiak said, that lined up for the Utes.
“It was just a local kid that I thought worked his butt off,” he said. “All the information I could come up with — checking behind the scenes, talking to coaches and watching him — it looked like somewhat of a no-brainer. But that’s not to bash any previous coach or anything.
“Kids can find motivation in some of these stories and push kids harder,” Krystkowiak continued. “I’ve always been a believer that everything happens for a reason. So we were kind of the recipients of that.”
When Utah renewed its recruitment under Krystkowiak, there were no apologies needed.
“They didn’t have to say anything,” Loveridge said. “None of the old staff was there.”
Same goes for most of the players under Boylen. It was a fresh start and Loveridge quickly took to Krystkowiak and his staff. He was already familiar with Connor, DeMarlo Slocum and director of basketball operations Norm Parrish.
Loveridge said that Krystkowiak’s approach — not beating around the bush — reminds him of the coaching he received from his father while growing up.
“It’s just more of a family atmosphere,” Loveridge said. “He’s not trying to hide anything. He’s just trying to do the right things all the time and trying to win games.”
Loveridge received an early offer from Weber State and later received strong recruitment from BYU. The Cougars were in the midst of Jimmer Fredette-mania at the time. Loveridge developed a friendship with Fredette, who wound up speaking at one of his West Jordan basketball banquets.
“I’d go to open gyms there (at BYU), just in the summer, and we’d play against each other and things like that,” Loveridge said. “It wasn’t anything where he was telling me I needed to go to BYU or anything like that.”
The Cougars, though, were in the mix for his services.
“I was considering BYU and a lot of schools that recruited me hard. Things like that — players doing well during my recruitment — didn’t really have that big of an influence,” Loveridge said. “I just wanted to find somewhere where I would fit in and where I would just have the best experience for me and I felt that would be Utah.”
Committing to a Utah program that went 6-25 the season before his arrival, however, didn’t sit well with some folks.
“He took a lot of grief in his senior year of high school when he chose to go to Utah,” Bill Loveridge said. “Because everyone told him how stupid he was.”
Word was that he was afraid of competition. Bill laughed that off because he knew there would be a very high level of it in the Pac-12.
“He would have went out of state. He wasn’t a kid that was scared to go out of state,” LaTrill said. “He just wanted the right fit.”
She joked that their mailman was probably the happiest person when a decision was made. Loveridge was receiving a lot of mail, oftentimes getting as many as five letters from the same school in a single day.
As for the recruitment process in general, Bill said that BYU did its best.
“I think the determining factor was Jordan didn’t want to play in the WCC,” he explained.
Krystkowiak’s quick visit to Loveridge was another variable. So, too, was the comfort he felt with the staff.
“He was confident they were going to win and he wanted to play against the top players,” Bill said. “The main reason is he believed in what the coaches were doing and wanted to play in a big conference against all the top talent he could.”
LaTrill is “really proud” of what her son has accomplished, adding that it’s real special that he has been a cornerstone in Utah’s return to prominence.
She’s not alone.
A program guy
Krystkowiak declined to put a cap on Loveridge’s career. After all, the 13th-ranked Utes aren’t finished yet.
“He’s still got some games left and we’ve got some goals,” Krystkowiak said. “I’ve been thrilled to coach him.”
Krystkowiak describes Loveridge as a “program guy” who not only gets it done on the court but is also able to help some of the younger players and pass the baton.
“It’s been a heck of a fun four years being around him and his family,” Krystkowiak said. “They’ve been really instrumental in helping us get this program going. But I think we still have some fish to fry.”
Loveridge has similar determination. However, in reflection, he acknowledges that it’s been a great run and that time has passed really fast. The 22-year-old feels like everyone around the nation and throughout the Pac-12 has recognized and seen that Utah basketball is headed in the right direction.
“I knew we would have a chance to do some great things with a great coaching staff and the guys that they brought in,” Loveridge said. “I knew we would have a chance to do some of the things we’ve accomplished.”
Fellow seniors Brandon Taylor and Dakarai Tucker take similar pride in the climb. Taylor said it’s about being part of something special. Tucker considers it the highlight of his college career.
Both give Loveridge a lot of the credit.
“It was great for him to stick around,” Tucker said of his teammate’s decision to play close to home.
Taylor added that it was big.
“Jordan was ‘Mr. Hollywood’ our freshman year,” he said.
On a more serious note, Taylor praised Loveridge’s work ethic.
“Jordan has always been one of those people that’s always been in the gym,” he said. “He’s always been one of those players that’s always been hard-nosed no matter what.”
No matter the downfalls, Taylor explained, Loveridge has always been a hard worker and a good teammate.
“Jordan is Jordan. That’s my guy. That’s a man that’s going to always be a part of my life,” Taylor said. “We’ll always be tight friends. We’ll always be like brothers.”
Loveridge, though, shakes off any notion that he’s anything special — especially when it comes to helping get Utah basketball back on the map.
“I just look at myself as part of a program, part of a program I wanted to help grow,” he said. “I don’t look at myself as the main person or anything like that. I just look at myself as a piece to a program that’s built itself up again.”
Colorado (21-9, 10-7) at Utah (23-7, 12-5)
Saturday, 7:30 p.m.