Incoming University of Utah basketball player Hunter Erickson, who just concluded a standout season at Salt Lake Community College, isn’t sure yet when the BYU Cougars visit the Jon M. Huntsman Center this upcoming season.

Erickson just knows that they will, sometime in mid-December, and, as a former Cougar, he couldn’t be more excited about it.

“No hard feelings. All the coaches there are really good guys. I learned a ton and got a lot better in my time there. I just felt like in order to reach my potential I needed a bigger role and bigger opportunities. So, we parted ways. It was a great time there and I loved it. A lot of good guys there.” — New Runnin’ Utes guard Hunter Erickson on his time at BYU

“It will be a good time,” Erickson said earlier this week. “I am definitely looking forward to it. It will be fun. It will be a big game for me, obviously.”

That doesn’t mean Erickson harbors any ill will toward the team and coaches for which he played two years — 2020-21 and 2021-22 — after a high-scoring prep career at Provo’s Timpview High and a Spanish-speaking church mission to Charlotte, North Carolina.

In fact, Erickson has mostly good things to say about his time at BYU, while noting that he left because he had a different vision for his future than BYU coach Mark Pope and some members of his staff did.

“No hard feelings,” Erickson said. “All the coaches there are really good guys. I learned a ton and got a lot better in my time there. I just felt like in order to reach my potential I needed a bigger role and bigger opportunities. So, we parted ways. It was a great time there and I loved it. A lot of good guys there.”

The 6-foot-3, 195-pound Erickson entered the transfer portal in May 2022 after appearing in eight games as a BYU freshman in 2020-21 and 19 games as a sophomore in 2021-22. He averaged 1.0 points, 0.4 rebounds and 0.4 assists his second season in Provo as the Cougars reached the quarterfinals of the NIT.

Last July, he announced his commitment to SLCC and highly successful head coach Kyle Taylor, and put together the kind of season he envisioned having at BYU. Although he signed with the Utes a game into his only season with the Bruins, he started in 30 of SLCC’s 34 games and helped lead the Taylorsville school to a No. 5 seed in the NJCAA national tournament in Hutchinson, Kansas.

That first official (nonexhibition) game with SLCC? 

Erickson stuffed the stat sheet, scoring 15 points and adding four rebounds, four assists and three steals in 20 minutes in a 97-74 win over Casper College. 

“We are thrilled to welcome Hunter to the Runnin’ Utes family,” Utes coach Craig Smith said on Nov. 9, when the early signing period for Division I college basketball opened. “Hunter is a basketball junkie and loves to compete. He’s a dynamic playmaker (who) competes on both ends of the court. He is a winner and will make us better.”

The Bruins finished with a 29-5 overall record, falling 94-93 in overtime to Tallahassee Community College in a first-round game at the place everybody in junior college basketball simply refers to as “Hutch.”

“That was a gut punch,” Erickson said. “We had an awesome year. We had a very talented team with a lot of Division I transfers and big-time guys. … We could have gone far.”

In 2022, SLCC played for the national championship, but fell to Northwest Florida State in the finals.

Erickson and teammate Alejandro Vasquez made the All-Region 18 First Team and Erickson finished as the squad’s third-leading scorer, averaging 12.1 points. He also chipped in 3.9 rebounds and led the team with 184 assists. He had 43 steals, blocked 14 shots, and shot 42% from 3-point range (59 of 140) and an eye-popping — for a guard — 51% from the field. 

It was just what the doctor ordered for a guy looking to get his college career back on track.

“I’m very happy with how it worked out (and have) no regrets,” Erickson said. “When I was leaving, I felt like I needed a place where the head coach and coaches see my future the same way I see my future. And I felt like that is what I got at SLCC. They put me into a position to continue that journey to a place I see myself reaching.”

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Erickson says he didn’t have a particular destination in mind when he entered the transfer portal in early April. He had logged only 15 total minutes in BYU’s three NIT games, scoring just two points. Those were the first points since he had 10 against Westminster way back on Dec. 29, 2021.

When three-year BYU assistant Chris Burgess joined Smith’s staff on April 13, Erickson says he began to consider playing for the Cougars’ longtime rival. However, the more he thought about it, the more he wanted to go to a place where he could start and get a lot of minutes right away, and that meant the junior college route.

“I felt like SLCC was perfect, because I could go in and just play a ton every game and be a leader on the court,” he said. “Obviously, I ended up having Utah show (interest) pretty early and it fit all the categories I was looking for. I didn’t have to wait (for the season) to commit. It was my best option.”

Erickson said having Burgess at the U. sealed the deal.

“I could tell in talking to coach Smith that he believed in me, and especially with Chris Burgess being there, I knew it would be a good fit. I was close to coach Burgess at BYU and I know he believes in me as well. He is a fan of mine. I really appreciate that.”

Erickson has another tie to Craig Smith. Smith’s son, 6-foot guard Brady Smith, was one of Erickson’s teammates at SLCC and they share a house that Erickson’s aunt owns near Fashion Place Mall in Murray with another teammate.

“He’s awesome,” Erickson said of the Green Canyon (Logan) High product.

Erickson was awesome in high school, averaging 22.0 points his junior year and 22.6 points his senior year at Timpview. 

Timpview’s Hunter Erickson drives hard to the hoop with Timpanogos’ Justin Beus and Tyler Walker defending as they play at Timpview in Provo on Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

Since the season ended in Kansas, he’s been playing all the pickup basketball he can with guys from various college teams throughout the state and finishing up classes for his associate degree at SLCC.

Once classes are done the first week of May, Erickson can start doing things with the Runnin’ Utes. When the Utes begin preparing in earnest for the 2023-24 season on June 22, he will be there, decked out in red and loving every minute of it, he said.

He will pursue an exercise science and/or nutrition degree at the U.

Erickson sees himself as a combo guard or point guard at Utah, having ran the point at SLCC most of the season. Utah’s backcourt took a hit recently when two-year starter Lazar Stefanovic hit the transfer portal and subsequently committed to UCLA.

To date, Utah has picked up one addition from the portal — Colorado center Lawson Lovering. Erickson looks forward to working with Lovering.

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“I want to win, and I am happy to do whatever role they see that benefits the team the most,” he said. “That could be scoring a ton, or facilitating a ton. Scoring was kind of my main thing in high school. At BYU, I really developed my playmaking, and I did both (at SLCC). So I feel like I could play in almost any role and be able to excel at it.”

As for this December, he looks forward to competing against the Cougars and former teammates who are still at BYU such as Trevin Knell, Trey Stewart, Spencer Johnson, Fousseyni Traore and Atiki Ally Atiki.

“We are all (still) pretty close,” he said. “We all had classes together. We had some pretty good teams while I was there because we were all so close. We were all pretty good friends.”

But for one of those buddies, it became time to move on. And he’s glad he did.

BYU basketball player Hunter Erickson stands in the Marriott Center Annex in Provo on Wednesday, July 14, 2021.
BYU basketball player Hunter Erickson stands in the Marriott Center Annex in Provo on Wednesday, July 14, 2021. The former Timpview start ended up transferring to Salt Lake Community College and will play for the Runnin’ Utes next season. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
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