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Timmy Allen and the youthful Utah Runnin’ Utes eager for season

Utah has a lot of new faces entering 2019-20 campaign.

University of Utah men’s basketball program begins official practices at the Jon M. and Karen Huntsman Basketball Facility in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2019.
University of Utah men’s basketball program begins official practices at the Jon M. and Karen Huntsman Basketball Facility in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2019.
Steve Griffin, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Although Timmy Allen has shed 25 pounds through improved nutrition in the offseason, the sophomore is carrying a much heavier load on his shoulders for the Utah Utes. Allen is the top returner on a squad moving forward nine of its top scorers from 2018-19.

“It’s a role that I’m excited to take,” Allen said. “It’s not by choice, but I’m very glad I’m in this role.”

The 6-foot-6 forward, who weighed 210 pounds last season, earned Pac-12 All-Freshman recognition after averaging 12.2 points and shooting 57.5% from the field. He joins fellow sophomores Both Gach (7.7 points) and Riley Battin (6.4 points) as the main holdovers from a squad that went 17-14 overall and 11-7 in Pac-12 play. Key departures include Sedrick Barefield and Parker Van Dyke to graduation, as well as transfers by Donnie Tillman (UNLV) and Jayce Johnson (Marquette).

Utah enters the season with just one senior (Marc Reininger) and one junior (Alfonso Plummer) on its roster. The rest is comprised of sophomores and freshmen.

“A lot of new faces, a lot of new people on the team. But we’re a growing group,” Allen said as the Utes opened practice Wednesday afternoon. “We’re young, but we’re not going to use that as an excuse. We can play a lot of different ways with a lot of different people at a lot of different positions. So I think it’ll be good.”

Allen added that the Utes will play a little faster than last year, so it’ll be fun to watch.

“I really love this team. Things have been great since summer practices,” said freshman Branden Carlson, a returned missionary and one of 11 freshmen on the squad.

Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak, who is beginning his ninth season at the helm, expects the program to continue its philosophy of playing hard, playing smart and playing together — traits he has continually preached in his tenure.

“I think we’ve had a really good summer with this group. It’s a super cohesive group of guys — high character guys,” Krystkowiak said. “I just like the focus and the way that we’re improving right now.”

Utah’s youthful squad faces teams like Nevada, Kentucky, Minnesota, BYU and Weber State in non-conference action. They’ll participate in the Myrtle Beach Invitational over Thanksgiving. The Pac-12 opener is Jan. 2 at home against Oregon State.

“It’s a high-energy group,” Krystkowiak said. “It’s a bunch of guys that are in it for the collective good.”

Krystkowiak noted that it’s refreshing and they’re having a lot of fun dealing with getting the team better.

“I am rejuvenated and feel good overall,” he said. “I’m not exactly sure what’s taken place, but I’m as confident at where we are in this process and moving forward with this team as I’ve felt in a long time.”

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2019-20 Utah men’s basketball schedule

OCTOBER: 30 — TEXAS-TYLER, 6:30 p.m.

NOVEMBER: 5 — at Nevada, 8:30 p.m.; 8 — MISSISSIPPI VALLEY STATE, 7 p.m.; 15 — MINNESOTA, 7 p.m.; 21 — vs. Coastal Carolina (Myrtle Beach Invitational); 22 — at Myrtle Beach Invitational, TBD; 24 — at Myrtle Beach Invitational, TBD; 29 — UC DAVIS, 7 p.m.

DECEMBER: 4 — BYU, 6 p.m.; 7 — CENTRAL ARKANSAS, 3 p.m.; 14 — vs. Weber State (Beehive Classic); 18 — vs. Kentucky (Las Vegas); 21 — vs. San Diego State (Los Angeles).

JANUARY: 2 — OREGON STATE, 6:30 p.m.; 4 — OREGON, 3 p.m.; 12 — at Colorado, 4 p.m.; 16 — at Arizona, 6:30 p.m.; 18 — at Arizona State, 7 p.m.; 23 — WASHINGTON, 6 p.m.; 25 — WASHINGTON STATE, 5 p.m.; 30 — at USC, 7:30 p.m.

FEBRUARY: 2 — at UCLA, 1 p.m.; 6 — STANFORD, 8 p.m.; 8 — CALIFORNIA, 6 p.m.; 13 — at Oregon State, 7 p.m.; 16 — at Oregon, 7 p.m.; 20 — UCLA. 8:30 p.m.; 23 — USC, 4 p.m.; 26 — at Stanford, 8 p.m.; 29 — at California, 4 p.m.

MARCH: 7 — COLORADO, 12:30 p.m.; 11-14 — Pac-12 Tournament (Las Vegas).

All times Mountain

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2019-20 Utah men’s basketball roster

FRESHMEN: 0 — Luc Krystkowiak (F, 6-4, 190); 2 — Matt Van Komen (C, 7-4, 220); 5 — Jaxon Brenchley (G, 6-5, 190); 10 — Brandon Haddock (G, 6-2, 165); 13 — Elias Ballstaedt (G, 6-6, 195); 15 — Rylan Jones (G, 6-1, 170); 20 — Mikael Jantunen (F, 6-8, 215); 30 — Brendan Wenzel (G, 6-6, 180); 32 — Lahat Thioune (C, 6-10, 210); 32 — Branden Carlson (C, 6-11, 210); 45 — Hunter Mecum (F, 6-8, 235).

SOPHOMORES: 1 — Timmy Allen (F, 6-6, 210); 11 — Both Gach (G, 6-7, 195); 14 — Brooks King (G, 6-3, 200); 21 — Riley Battin (G, 6-9, 220).

JUNIORS: 25 — Alfonso Plummer (G, 6-1, 175).

SENIORS: 40 — Marc Reininger (F, 6-9, 220).