SALT LAKE CITY — Some of the University of Utah’s men’s basketball players were allowed to return to campus facilities Monday and they are excited to get back to a certain sense of normalcy, no matter how abnormal the world may be right now.
Players are being subject to daily testing and must work out by themselves, not in groups. They’re not even allowed to speak about specifics of the voluntary workouts, per NCAA rules, but can talk generally about returning to campus and what they’ve been doing for the past three months since the season ended.
Five local players were able to start working out on their own Monday, including two returning starters, Branden Carlson and Rylan Jones, part-time starter Jaxon Brenchley and walk-ons Eli Ballstaedt and Luc Krystkowiak.
“It’s been a nice little break for the past few weeks, but now I want to get back into it, working out up there,” said Carlson, a 7-foot- center from South Jordan. “I’m excited to get back up, it’s been so long. It will be beneficial to get back up on the campus.”
He said he’s had access to a gym to practice his shooting and his basketball skills, but he’ll be happy to have access to the weight room after relying on a few dumbbells in his basement.
Jones, who played at Olympus High and Brenchley, who played for Ridgeline High School, have both been working extensively on their golf games this summer, while also getting in daily basketball workouts. Brenchley says he’s been able to play in a nice church gymnasium at his home in Logan with players such as Utah State’s Sam Merrill, although he emphasized they’ve kept the player numbers low. Jones said he has mostly worked out with his father, Chris, a former University of Utah player who is the director of basketball operations and has had access to a gym.
“It’s an awesome feeling to know we’re on the verge of having our team back in town, being able to practice and hang out with each other,” said Jones, who has added 10 pounds of muscle. “We’re going to take it slowly and make sure nothing happens. Hopefully nobody tests positive and we’re able to keep moving on through these phases and be able to have the team practice in about a month or so.”
“I’m excited to see my coaches and teammates,” added Brenchley. “I haven’t seen them for three months and I’m excited to get back in the groove.”
Just the local players were allowed back on campus Monday, while out-of-state athletes can return a week later on June 22. Then a week after that, incoming freshmen or transfers can come to use the facilities.
The Phase 1 group includes in-state athletes as well as those who have remained within a one-hour commute to Salt Lake City from men’s and women’s basketball, football, gymnastics, volleyball and soccer.
According to the plan which was unveiled on May 28, student-athletes and designated staff members will go through several tests, including antibody testing and PCR COVID-19 testing.
Athletes will also be subject to daily temperature checks, wristbands and coverings. They will be escorted to and from training facilities as well as within the facilities and can work out approximately two hours. Also they must be cleared to work out and listed on a roster at specified times and if they fail to report at the correct time or be cleared, they will not be granted access to facilities.
As for the upcoming season, the Ute basketball players are confident about their team’s prospects.
“I can see some great things happening for us in our future,” said Carlson. “We have a lot of potential with a lot of people returning and with another year of experience under our belts, it’s going to be a great year.”
Added Jones, “I think as long as we all stay healthy we’ll have a really good year. We’ve got a couple of really good players coming in that will help us right away. We’ll try to get better every day.”