Utah Basketball – Season Preview

The Larry Krystkowiak era of Utah Basketball kicks off monday night at the Huntsman Center.

The Larry Krystkowiak era at the University of Utah begins Monday night up on the hill as the Runnin' Utes welcome San Diego Christian to the Huntsman Center.

Utah finished the 2010 season with a record of 13-18, good for 6th in the Mountain West Conference. As a conference, the MWC had one of it's best years ever, sending 3 teams to the NCAA tournament (UNLV, BYU, SDSU), with 2 of those teams advancing to the Sweet 16 (BYU, SDSU).

Utah's last NCAA tournament appearance was in 2009, when the 5th seeded Runnin' Utes were upset by 12th seeded Arizona Wildcats. Utah's last NCAA tournament win came in 2005 when the Andrew Bogut led Utah to the Sweet 16.

The Runnin' Utes enter the PAC-12 conference expecting stiff competition. Last year, the PAC-10 sent three teams to the NCAA tournament (Washington, UCLA, Arizona), all of which advanced beyond the first round. Arizona lost a heartbreaker in the Elite 8, coming just short of a Final 4 appearance. Utah has not faced a PAC-12 opponent since 2008, but faced both Oregon and Cal that season. The Utes defeated Oregon, and lost to Cal.

Historically, Utah basketball stacks up among the best in the Pac-12. Utah has appeared in the NCAA tournament 65 times (3rd most in PAC-12), and won 35 tournament games (3rd most in PAC-12).

All-Time PAC-12 NCAA Tournament Appearances (in order of tournament appearances):
UCLA = 135 appearances, 99 wins
Arizona = 70, 43
Utah = 65, 35
Stanford = 36, 21
California = 35, 19
Washington = 33, 17
Oregon State = 31, 12
USC = 29, 12
Arizona State = 27, 13
Colorado = 21, 9
Oregon = 21, 12
Washington State = 12, 6

The Staff:

Larry Krystkowiak –
Entering his first season as head coach of the Runnin' Utes, Larry Krystkowiak is already a familiar face to many Utah fans due to his days playing and coaching in the NBA. Krystkowiak brings a no-nonsense approach to the Utes.

Coaching Experience:
- Assistant Coach, New Jersey Nets (2010-11)
- Head Coach, Adidas Nations/Adidas USA (2009-10)
- Head Coach, Milwaukee Bucks (2007-08)
- Assistant/Head Coach, Milwaukee Bucks (2006-07)
- Head Coach, University of Montana (2004-06)
- Head Coach, Idaho Stampede (2003-04)
- Assistant Coach, Old Dominion University (2001-02)
- Assistant Coach, University of Montana (1998-2000)

Playing Experience:
University of Montana -
- Three-time Big Sky Conference MVP - 1984, ‘85, '86
- UM's All-time leading scorer (2,017)
- UM's All-time leading rebounder (1,105)

Professional Career –
- NBA Draft: 1986, 2nd round, 28th overall - Chicago Bulls
- San Antonio Spurs, 1986-87
- Milwaukee Bucks, 1988-92
- Utah Jazz, 1992-93
- Orlando Magic, 1993-94
- Chicago Bulls, 1994-95
- Los Angeles Lakers, 1996

Tommy Connor – Coach Connor is another familiar face to many Utah fans, having spent time on the Utah bench next to Rick Majerus from 1994-97. Coach Connor also played at the University of Utah, graduating in 1990. Connor was a 4 year starter as a PG for the Utes. From 1997-2010, Coach Connor built a Westminster College basketball program from scratch, and won 70% of games over the 12 year span. Connor's success on the NAIA level was remarkable. This will be the first season of Connor working with Krystkowiak.

DeMarlo Slocum – Coach Slocum enters his first season with the University of Utah after spending 3 seasons as an assistant coach at Colorado State University, a season as an assistant coach at Idaho, and also spent some time as an assistant coach at the Dixie State College in southern Utah. Slocum has built a reputation as a strong recruiter, dating back to his time as the USC director of basketball operations and beyond.

Andy Hill – Coach Hill enters his first season with the University of Utah after spending the last 7 years at the University of Montana, including 2 seasons under Larry Krystkowiak. Hill also spent time at Eastern Washington and Lewis-Clark College as a coach.

Norm Parrish – Coach Parrish joins the Runnin' Utes as the Director of Basketball Operations after spending the past 20 years as the head coach at Salt Lake Community College. Parrish spent 1 season as a graduate assistant at the University of Utah under Lynn Archibald. Parrish brings a familiarity with Utah, as well as very strong experience and connections on the international levels of basketball.

Randy Baruth – Director of Player Camps and Development
Trevor Jameson – Basketball Trainer

The Returning Players:

David Foster
Big David Foster enters his senior season as one of the top shot-blockers in America. Despite only 2 real seasons of being in the Utes' rotation, Foster's spot in the record books is solidified. Foster has 219 career blocked shots (ranks 1st in program history), 115 blocked shots in 2010-11 (1st in program history, his 2009-10 performance ranks 2nd), and also holds the top 5 places in single game blocked shots. Unfortunately for the Utes, Foster injured his foot during Utah's exhibition game and will miss most of the season while the 7'4 giant recovers.

Josh "Jiggy" Watkins – Jiggy returns for his senior season after averaging 14.5 points per game in 2010-11. The senior PG is Utah's most dangerous offensive weapon, and is best off the dribble where he can either attack the rim, or get to the foul line. Watkins averaged nearly 6 FT attempts per game last season. Utah hopes Watkins can improve upon his 42% FG shooting, and 27% from 3 point territory.

Chris HinesThe Junior guard has played a limited role in previous seasons for the Utes, but looks to become a key contributor this season. Hines 37% shooting from 3 point territory is the top among returning players. Hines was injured during Utah's exhibition game, and will miss most of November while his rib recovers.

Jason Washburn At 6'10, Washburn is Utah's only player over 6'7 (due to Foster's injury). The highly regarded high school recruit averaged 6 points and 4 rebounds per game in 20 minutes per game last season. Entering his junior season, Washburn will need to play a big role for this Utah team.

The Newcomers:

Cedric Martin After a mass exodus of players from the Utah program, Martin is a player Utah coaches will rely on to play major minutes on the wing. Martin is a versatile 6'4 player with elite athleticism, and excellent shooting ability. Martin joins the Utes after spending 2 seasons at Lee Community College near Houston Texas.

Dijon Farr Last season, Utah ranked among the worst teams in America in forcing turnovers. Dijon Farr is a player that can help change that. Farr is a 6'6 Forward with excellent length and athleticism. Offensively, Farr has some ability to step out and shoot the ball, but ultimately will get most of his points slashing to the basket and getting put-backs. Farr should be Utah's best perimeter defender on the wing. Farr joins the Utes from Indian Hills Community College.

Javon Dawson "Big Country" is his nickname, and his biceps match the nickname. Dawson is the third and final junior college transfer this season, joining the Utes from Gulf Coast Community College. Unlike Farr and Martin, Dawson is only a sophomore, having sat out last season recovering from a torn ACL. With very few big men available, Dawson (6'6, 260) will need to use his strength to battle opposing bigs at both the Power Forward and Center positions. Dawson should be one of Utah's best rebounders this season.

Blake Wilkinson – Wilkinson is a left-handed true freshman PF walk-on turned starter. Rather than taking one of the many scholarship offers he had to Big Sky schools, Wilkinson opted to join the Utes…and the coaching staff is glad he did. Wilkinson is a tough, rugged player who will be one of the best rebounding and defending big men on Utah's roster. In Utah's exhibition game, Wilkinson grabbed 11 rebounds in 20 minutes…an elite number.

Kareem Storey Hailing from Baltimore, MD, Kareem Storey has come a long way for a chance to be a key player at a high major university. Blessed with elite quickness, Storey is already the best defensive player in Utah's backcourt. Storey can hawk opposing ball-handlers full court, making their lives miserable. Storey is a pass-first PG with a developing shot who needs to get better with his left hand.

Anthony OdunsiOdunsi was a late switch to Utah, having originally signed an LOI to play basketball at Iowa State. Coming out of Texas, Odunsi is a gifted offensive player with enough versatility to play all 3 backcourt positions. Odunsi will see significant minutes in Utah's backcourt this season, but must get better on defense. Conceptually, Odunsi is still learning a lot on defense. Given his natural ability, Odunsi will be an interesting player to watch develop, as progress could be rapid or deliberate.

George Matthews The highest regarded recruit of Utah's 2011 class joined the Utes as a creative offensive player who needed to make the transition from a high school frontcourt player to a collegiate backcourt player. An offseason foot surgery caused much of Matthews development to be slowed. Once Foster went down with injury, Matthews was moved to the PF position to help with depth. Matthews has loads of talent, but has some ground to make up after the injury.

The Schedule:

The Utes' start their season with 3 "winnable" games against San Diego Christian College, Boise State, and Montana State. The Runnin' Utes then head to the Bahamas to participate in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament where they will face 3 quality opponents. After the thanksgiving tournament, the Utes will play 5 games over a 2 week period, highlighted by a home battle vs. BYU on 12/10/2011. The Utes then head into conference play where they will face most conference teams twice. With a young team, the Utes hope to get better in each stage they pass through.

Predictions:

Total Wins: 7
Pac-12 Finish: 12th
Leading Scorer: Josh "Jiggy" Watkins
Second Leading Scorer: Cedric Martin
Leading Rebounder: Blake Wilkinson
Top Freshman: Anthony Odunsi
Top Newcomer: Cedric Martin
Best Team Statistic: Field Goal % Defense
Worst Team Statistic: Offensive Points Per Game

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