SALT LAKE CITY — Before their final game in the Huntsman Center Saturday night, the University of Utah men’s basketball team’s five seniors were each honored with a traditional framed jersey and a heartfelt video tribute from Utah head coach Larry Krystkowiak.
The list of departing players includes Dakarai Tucker and Brandon Taylor, both from Los Angeles, Jordan Loveridge of West Jordan, Utah, Austin Eastman of Billings, Montana, and Jeremy Olsen from Lawrenceville, Georgia.
This senior class is especially significant as Loveridge, Taylor and Tucker have each had major contributions in Utah’s rise from Pac-12 bottom-dweller to a national contender in the last four years. Each was one of Larry Krystkowiak’s initial recruits at Utah four years ago and they're the first seniors at Utah to have played all four years in the Pac-12. The three helped lead the Utes to three consecutive 21-win seasons, including the Utes’ Sweet 16 appearance in 2015, their first since 2005.
“This senior class is first class. They have given their hearts and souls to the game and to the University of Utah,” Krystkowiak stated in the video. “They came to Utah knowing it wasn’t going to be easy. They believed when most didn’t believe.”
Loveridge and Taylor have been key players in each of their four years at Utah including being three-year starters. Each can be found in the Utah record books in several categories, most notably as among the all-time scoring leaders — Loveridge 14th and Taylor 25th.
Tucker started much of his sophomore year and has made significant contributions throughout his tenure with the Utes.
Eastman, who is a walk-on, has been with the Utes for the last two years and is a crowd favorite while Olsen played for three years before retiring due to medical reasons and serving as a student manager for the team in his senior season.
In the video, Krystkowiak spoke directly to his players, saying, “Our Utah basketball program will never be the same and your fingerprints are all over it.”
POELTL POWER: In addition to recently being named a Naismith Player of the Year semifinalist and a Kareem-Abdul Jabbar Award finalist, Utah center Jakob Poeltl was selected this week as a finalist for the Oscar Robertson Player of the Year Award and the John R. Wooden Award, the latter of which is regarded as one of the most esteemed awards in college basketball.
As for the Wooden Award, Poeltl is one of 15 players who is a candidate to make the Wooden Award All-American Team while 1,000 members of the national college basketball media, along with fans, will vote to decide which player will be awarded the Wooden Award Trophy, which is given to the best player in the nation.
The 10-player Wooden Award All-American Team along with the five Wooden Award finalists will be announced on March 28 and the presentation of the Wooden Award Trophy will be on April 8.