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Utah's Jakob Poeltl named Pac-12 Player of the Year

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah center Jakob Poeltl is the 2015-16 Pac-12 Player of the Year. Teammate Brandon Taylor also received an individual accolade. The senior guard was named Pac-12 Scholar-Athlete of Year. He has a 3.4-grade point average in psychology

Poeltl, a 7-foot sophomore from Austria, averaged 17.3 points, 9.1 rebounds, 1.6 blocks and shot 66 percent from the field.

“I am obviously honored,” Poeltl said in a statement released by the university. “I have always said that individual awards are not really what I am (playing) for and I am more about the team. I hope that our team is playing well, but being named the Pac-12 Player of the Year is a great honor.”

Poeltl's efforts led 12th-ranked Utah to a 24-7 record, including a 13-5 mark in Pac-12 play. The Utes finished in sole possession of second place and enter this week’s conference tournament in Las Vegas as the No. 2 seed — the program’s highest placement since joining the league in 2011-12.

“It’s a little bit daunting when you think about where we’d be without him,” said Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak. “But it’s a team game. We’ve had different guys rise up at different times.”

None, though, stood as tall as Poeltl. The 20-year-old opted to put an NBA career on hold and return for his sophomore season. The decision is now reaping benefits, including All-America recognition.

“I’m extremely proud. I think it’s a heck of a story and one that should probably be talked about more as we mentioned a week ago — the benefits of staying another year in school and maturing,” Krystkowiak said. “I’m proud of the fact that we’ve had him and I think he’s done a great job. But the challenge, I think, still lies ahead of us and I think everybody knows.”

Krystkowiak noted that things won’t be any easier for Poeltl or anyone else in Las Vegas. Poeltl, though, is coming off a strong performance in Utah’s 57-55 victory over Colorado. He finished with 16 points, 13 rebounds and five blocked shots.

“He played his tail off Saturday night. We didn’t have that kind of effort from everybody,” Krystkowiak said. “He was engaged, blocked some shots — did a lot against a real physical Colorado team that was trying to stop him.”

It capped a regular season that Krystkowiak acknowledged was pretty darn impressive. He said that Poeltl has really grown and matured as a player.

Poeltl was Utah’s lone representative on the Pac-12’s all-conference first and second teams. He was joined on the 10-man first squad by Roscoe Allen (Stanford), Ryan Anderson (Arizona), Andrew Andrews (Washington), Dillon Brooks (Oregon), Jaylen Brown (California), Elgin Cook (Oregon), Julian Jacobs (USC), Gary Payton II (Oregon State) and Josh Scott (Colorado).

The second unit featured Isaac Hamilton (UCLA), Dejounte Murray (Washington), Ivan Rabb (California), Kalen Tarczewski (Arizona) and Gave York (Arizona).

Utah seniors Jordan Loveridge and Brandon Taylor earned honorable mention recognition. Taylor was named to the Pac-12’s all-defensive team. Poeltl was among others receiving votes.

Payton II, a former Salt Lake Community College star, repeated as the conference’s Defensive Player of the Year.

Utah faces UCLA or USC in the Pac-12 tournament quarterfinals on Thursday (7:15 p.m., P12N).


Twitter: @DirkFacer