The first Wednesday of November is an important date for college basketball programs, as colleges across the country begin the process of bolstering their basketball rosters. Today marks the beginning of the early signing period, which will run until November 16th. In the early period, the University of Utah basketball program is expected to make two additions, both of which signed this afternoon. The signings are a good start to the class, as the Utes have made a huge impact in-state by signing two of the best local prospects.
Both Jaxon Brenchley and Branden Carlson have signed their Letter of Intent to further their education and basketball careers at the University of Utah. In kind of an awkward twist that can only be found in the state of Utah, neither commit will don a Utah jersey until 2019, after completing a two year LDS church mission. Although both commits are important to the program, neither will impact how the staff will piece together their roster for the 2017-18 season.
What They Bring to the Table
The 6-foot-10 inch, 210 pound center out of Bingham High School is the shining jewel of the early signing period. Utah made its claim as the premier program in the state in landing Carlson. Carlson is the highest rated player coming out of the state of Utah. He is the 69th rated player in the country and has been named the third best center in the Western United States. Carlson is a very athletic center who can run the court well, has extremely soft hands, great court vision and can be a strong finisher around the rim. Give him a few years to fill in his frame and he has the potential to be a solid threat in the paint.
Utah went up against Stanford, UCLA and BYU in the battle for Carlson and they have to be extremely happy with his decision.
This Utah coaching staff has put a high priority on having versatile guards that are competent in playing multiple positions on the perimeter, and Brenchley fits that role perfectly. The 6-foot-5 inch, 180 pound Brenchley, plays point guard for Mountain Crest High School, but will be used as a combo guard at Utah. Brenchley uses his size and strength extremely well while moving with the ball. He is a beast at getting past his defender, penetrating into the key and breaking down the defense. He is an extremely intelligent basketball player who prides himself in always making the right decision with the ball. He is an elite passer with a very respectable jumpshot. The Utes got exactly what they look for in a perimeter player in signing Brenchley.
What Does It Mean for the 2017 Class?
Again, with both signees leaving on two year missions, these signings won't make an immediate impact the 2017 class. The Utes only have two seniors on the roster in Lorenzo Bonam and Gabe Bealer. That would leave Utah with two available spots to fill in the late signing period once both graduate and move on from the program. One thing to watch is what happens with junior forward Kyle Kuzma. If Kuzma has a good season this year, look for him to take the leap to the NBA. If that happens Utah will have three spots available for recruits in the late signing period.
The biggest name to keep an eye on is Donnie Tillman, a 6-foot-7 inch, 215 pound power forward out of Henderson, Nevada. Tillman is turning heads around the country with his physical play. After his visit to Salt Lake City earlier this fall, Tillman was extremely high on Utah. That said, he isn't expected to sign an LOI during the early signing period. As a result, look for the Ute staff to make him a priority for the late signing period.
Assuming Kuzma enters the NBA draft early, and the Utes need to fill three spots, Utah will look to bring in an athletic wing, a power forward and possibly another point guard/combo guard. If Kuzma were to stay for his senior season, that could change their plans. On the recruiting front, Utah will reassess the landscape after the early signing period ends and from that point will explore all avenues to fill their vacant spots. As the Utes have made a habit of finding impact recruits in non-traditional places, look for Utah to be especially active amongst the Junior College ranks as well as abroad - in both Australia and Europe.
Utah's offer list can be found here, and will be updated as new offers go out after the early signing period ends.