It was a quiet Sunday evening and University of Utah head coach Larry Krystkowiak, was enjoying some quiet time downstairs in his theater room. Little did he know that upstairs, his son Luc was opening the door to a visitor that was going to completely change his night.
Luc took the visitor downstairs and showed him to the theater room, where he entered with a simple, “Hey Coach, What’s up?”
Krystkowiak turned his head in the visitor’s direction to see Branden Carlson, the 6-foot-10 inch, 210 pound center from Bingham High School (South Jordan, Utah), standing in the doorway. Surprised and excited, Krystkowiak pumped his fists and said, “Yes! Heck yes!”
With excitement in his voice Carlson announced to Krystkowiak, “I want to be a Ute.”
“I can tell,” was the response he received form his grinning coach.
Before making that trip up to Krystkowiak’s house, Carlson had narrowed his list of schools to Utah, BYU, UCLA and Stanford. According to Carlson, each school had so much to offer to a basketball player, that he really had to weigh his options. BYU seemed a very logical fit for the versatile big man. Coming from an LDS family, Carlson had been brought up a BYU fan. “When I was young, my whole family, we grew up BYU fans,” he said. “BYU would be great to play for, because all of my family would love it. And the environment and people are great.”
UCLA brings with it a rich basketball history that impresses any basketball enthusiast. Carlson explained, “UCLA has an amazing tradition. The coaching staff is great too. Coach Alford really knows what he is doing.
The combination of academics and player development at Stanford had his attention as well. “Stanford…of course the academics. The coaching staff with Coach Haase, has put plenty of guys in the league the past few years,” he said.
However, In the end, Utah was the only place that felt right to the young man. “I just thought about it a lot. I talked to my family and Utah just felt like it was the right place for me. I felt like I just needed to go there. It was a gut feeling,” he tried to describe. “Utah was the only place where I felt like that is where I need to go, that’s where I can see myself playing in a few years.”
Krystkowiak’s excitement with having Carlson on board stems from the great potential he has. Krystkowiak, along with Associate Head Coach, Tommy Connor recruited Carlson and had great things to say to him. Carlson said that they would tell him, “We love how you can play outside and in. We definitely want to play you face-up, back to the basket, playing four and five. We think you have so much potential that we want to develop.”
Carlson has a good foundation upon which to develop his on-court talent. “I feel like my aggressiveness and my hustle is good. My recovery, I can make a mistake and have my guy drive past me, but my recovery to get back in front or block a shot is good,” he said of his game. “My post game is pretty strong. Quick, good post moves and all. But I feel like I need to work on my shot, size and strength.”
On June 14th, Carlson will turn 18, the eligible age to serve a voluntary LDS church mission. His mission will put his basketball career on hold for two years. When picking between schools it was important to Carlson that he knew what situation would be awaiting him when he returns. “That was one of my big things with going to Utah,” he said. “I want to know the coaches who are there and who my teammates are going to be. I’m excited for that and how good we are going to be.”
In the meantime, Carlson will be teaching people the message of his church in attempt to convert them to his faith. He will also have another conversion to work on with his family back home. Carlson laughed about his BYU family having to accept him being a Ute. “They were a little heartbroken, but they were totally supportive. They were like, ‘Okay, if that’s your decision we will totally back you up on that,’” he said. “They are happy for me and now they’ll convert to Utah.”