Don’t look now, but here comes history. It’s Jordie McTavish, run off the Utah basketball team by a critical Rick Majerus. It’s Lance Allred, fed up with the insults. It’s Richard Chaney and Justin Hawkins, both who finished elsewhere, rather than under Ray Giacoletti. It’s Marshall Henderson, Carlon Brown, Jordan Cyphers and Matt Read, all of whom abandoned Jim Boylen’s program.
But it’s today’s Utes, too. In other words, a team so fluid there must be a leak.
Is this a good thing? It actually could be. Coach Larry Krystkowiak did this when he took over the program in 2011, as he began culling players not good enough to be at Utah, or releasing those who didn’t want to stay. Now the Utes are coming off back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances, including three wins.
If it takes major changes, Krystkowiak can do that.
J.J. O’Brien, Shawn Glover, Jace Tavita and Will Clyburn left in the off-season between Boylen and Krystkowiak. Chris Hines absconded a year later. All became starters elsewhere. Some players leave by invitation, others are seeking better situations. In one sense, this confirms Kyrstkowiak isn’t on cruise control. He’ll nudge out underperformers and chase down replacements as needed. He’s good at chasing. This man once apprehended a bike thief on campus, detaining him until police arrived.
Coaches love saying there are no guaranteed scholarships. But it’s more than a catchphrase for Krystkowiak.
So on it goes. Isaiah Wright and Brekkott Chapman — two players almost sure to play significant minutes next season — have requested releases and received them. Wright is rumored to be transferring to San Diego. Forward Chris Reyes has left for Pepperdine, while Austin Montgomery and Brandon Miller have chosen to attend Dixie State.
Barring further departures, Utah will have just four players who saw action last season. The Utes will be missing All-America Jakob Poeltl, who’s on to the NBA, as well as departing seniors Jordan Loveridge, Dakarai Tucker and Brandon Taylor. Those are notable losses. The only remaining pieces that played significant minutes last year are Gabe Bealer, Lorenzo Bonam and Kyle Kuzma.
So even as he’s releasing players into the wild, Krystkowiak is reeling them in: Jayce Johnson, a 7-foot, early enrollee who graduated high school in the winter; David Collette, a third-team All-Mountain West forward who left Utah State; JoJo Zamora, a junior college combo guard; Devon Daniels, a four-star, 6-5 shooting guard; Tyler Rawson, a 6-10 player from national champion Salt Lake Community College; Tim Coleman, a junior college transfer guard from Texas; Sedrick Barefield, a guard from Southern Methodist; and 6-11 center Jakub Jokl from the Czech Republic. Parker Van Dyke returns from an LDS mission.
Some of the turnover involves coaching decisions, but part of it is kids these days. No longer are players content to wait two or more years to get their chance to shine. If one school doesn’t play them, they’ll find one that will.
According to Sports Illustrated, of 80 recruits Majerus had at Utah, only 33 survived to graduate as seniors and 59 percent transferred or left early. Some that stayed took Utah to the heights of college basketball.
Of 45 players listed on sportsreference.com’s rosters in the Krystkowiak era, 13 finished their senior seasons, one retired for health reasons, and six are still in the program, counting Van Dyke.
So there’s a lot of cutting and pasting going on.
Krystkowiak knows that. He also knows expectations will remain high. NBA talents like Delon Wright and Poeltl have made him look good — and he has done the same for them.
No one has ever accused Krystkowiak of berating players the way Majerus did. Nor does the program appear in steep decline, as it was at the end of the Giacoletti and Boylen eras. For now it would be foolish to criticize the multiple Utah roster changes until results are in. Krystkowiak has led the team from a six-win season in 2011-12 to second place in the Pac-12. He isn’t afraid to move people along, or allow discontent players to leave. The only way to determine whether that’s a good thing is to look at his success. So far he’s on solid ground.
Somewhere Majerus must be applauding.
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