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Utah basketball releases Caleb Lohner from national letter of intent

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Wasatch Academy’s Caleb Lohner is pictured against Oak Hill in a boys quarterfinal game at the Geico High School Basketball Nationals in the Queens borough of New York on Thursday, April 4, 2019.

Gregory Payan, Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY — Ten days after the news that Caleb Lohner wanted to break his commitment to the University of Utah basketball program and go to BYU, the university officially released him from his national letter of intent on Monday. 

“We are obviously very disappointed in Caleb’s recent decision requesting a release from his NLI,” said Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak in a statement. “However, we will honor his wishes and turn our focus towards the motivated, talented and connected players and coaches that are committed to our program. We look forward to getting back on the court together this fall and return to prominence within the Pac-12.”

No official word has come from BYU that he will join that program, although several sources have said that’s his plan.

It’s a disappointment to Utah, who was counting on him to be a part of a young team that is primed to move up the Pac-12 standings this season. When Lohner committed to play for Utah on Aug. 21 of last year he tweeted, “It’s a great day to be a Ute. 100% committed to the University of Utah!!!”

But that was 10 months ago. A lot can happen in nearly a year’s time and Lohner had a change of heart to apparently play for BYU where his father, Matt, played 25 years ago. 

The news broke on the publication UteZone on June 5 about Lohner’s decision and he has yet to make any public comment about the change except to confirm to the Deseret News that Friday in a text message that he was trying to get out of his commitment to Utah. Since that time he has not responded to any texts or calls.

Lohner was a four-star player, ranked among the top 100 prep basketball players by ESPN, Rivals and 247 Sports prior to last season, and was recruited by the likes of Michigan State, Stanford and San Diego State. BYU was also among his top possibilities, but he surprised many when he committed to play for Utah late last summer. 

When he talked with the Deseret News in August, Lohner said, “I really clicked with the staff, their coaches and their vision for me is exactly what I needed and what I want. My interest was sparked a month or so ago and I checked it out and was really impressed. After a few weeks, I knew it was the right spot.”

He also said at the time, “A whole side of my family is not that happy with me right now.”

Lohner is the oldest of five boys and a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, but when asked last August about a possible mission, he said, “I don’t think I’m going to do a mission.”

Lohner grew up in the Dallas area, but transferred to play for the Wasatch Academy in Mt. Pleasant, Sanpete County, for his senior season. He was listed at 6-foot-6 before the season but this season’s Wasatch Academy roster listed him at 6-foot-9. He averaged 14.3 points and 5.8 rebounds for the Tigers, who went 27-2 in 2019-20.

While he has changed his mind about not playing for Utah, Lohner will have to make one other significant change if he intends to play for BYU. He will have to do something about his distinguished hairstyle and his long, curly blond hair that has gone down his shoulders, in order to meet the standards at BYU. 

“People either love it or hate it,” he said last summer. “One day I decided I’m just going to grow my hair and ever since then I’ve loved it. I just roll with what I want to do. It’s almost my look now. A lot of people are starting to brand me by my hair.”

With Lohner’s decision to go elsewhere, along with the departure of Both Gach last month, the Utah basketball program has just 11 scholarship players out of the 13 allowed by the NCAA. Krystkowiak has preferred not to comment on the Lohner situation over the past 10 days, or what the program’s plan is for his scholarship. 

Two Ute players did comment Monday on the Lohner’s’ decision not to come to Utah. 

“Caleb’s not coming now, but we’ve got to stick with the group we’ve got and I think we’ll be great,” said sophomore guard Rylan Jones. 

Fellow sophomore Jaxon Brenchley said, “I was really surprised by Caleb’s decision, but it is what it is and we’ll move on with what we’ve got. I think what we have is great, though. I’m excited.”  

Besides four returning starters, the Utes will welcome newcomers Ian Martinez, a 6-3 guard out of Southern California, and 6-foot-5 Pelle Larsson from Sweden, who are both four-star recruits, to the program for 2020-21.