The basketball education of Parker Van Dyke began when he was a toddler.
It started with his grandfather Barry Sutton, who would summon the family around the dinner table and tell tales of Utah basketball’s glory days as if he were reminiscing over a campfire. Little Parker listened wide-eyed as Sutton spoke of people like Billy McGill and Tom Chambers.
His clothes growing up always seemed to contain a little bit of Ute red, courtesy of parents who for so long have held season tickets to games at the Huntsman Center. Years later, when Van Dyke became one of the best prep players in Utah, he did so at East High, about a five-minute walk from campus.
As the Utes take their first road trip of the year to Boise State on Tuesday night at Taco Bell Arena, Van Dyke will be one of their first players off the bench, a freshman just beginning his college basketball education. But Parker Van Dyke has been a Ute at heart for practically all of his life.
In many ways, he’s living out a dream.
“My family has been about as big a supporter of Utah basketball as you can be,” Van Dyke said. “We never missed games. We were always at the Huntsman Center, or at a football game. We were huge fans.”
Van Dyke is unique. A devout Mormon, he originally planned to serve a two-year church mission immediately after graduating from high school. But with the Utes in need of depth in the backcourt, he concluded that consistent playing time was a very real possibility this season, so he delayed his mission plans for a year.
Van Dyke’s decision has paid off — both for him and the team. The freshman has already emerged as one of the Utes’ best shooters. He’s capable of playing both backcourt positions, and he’s been better than advertised defensively, especially for a freshman.
Two weeks ago, he scored a career-high 12 points against Grand Canyon. And with the schedule ramping up — Fresno State and BYU are looming after Tuesday’s game — Van Dyke has been able to carve himself out a spot in the rotation.
But his value goes deeper than that. When Krystkowiak took the job three years ago, he knew he was basically starting from scratch. If Utah was had a chance to return to the glory days of Rick Majerus, Krystkowiak knew he would have to recruit the state well. Along with Jordan Loveridge, players like Van Dyke provide faces the local fan base can identify with. And you can’t get more local than Van Dyke, who has grown up with the program on and off the court.
“The one thing I realized is that the state of Utah has so many great players,” Krystkowiak said. “So it’s been extremely important that we have a footprint locally with recruiting. Parker’s been very sound for us on both sides of the floor. He’s defensively in the right spots and he hasn’t had many breakdowns. It made sense for both sides for him to play this year. He’s obviously a part of out rotation and he’s a big contributor to our team.”
If there is any surprise about Van Dyke, it’s that he actually considered playing elsewhere. That, as much as anything, reveals how down the Ute program was following Jim Boylen’s dismissal. Van Dyke’s recruiting wish list came down to Utah, Utah State, Arizona State and Stanford. The Sun Devils and the Aggies were real possibilities, Parker’s father, Paul Van Dyke, said.
But Krystkowiak quickly made up ground, and when he enticed Loveridge to commit out of West Jordan High School, it was a big development for the Van Dyke family.
“We knew when Larry took the job that he wanted to do things the right way, and that appealed to us,” Paul Van Dyke said. “As a family, we’ve been immersed with the program for so long. With our loyalty to the program, once we became comfortable, we couldn’t imagine going anywhere else.”
Van Dyke averages 5.2 points and 2.5 assists per game. He figures to continue to have a role because of his ability to shoot the ball and play more than one position off the bench.
If nothing else, local players like Van Dyke are bringing stability back to Utah’s men’s basketball program. Majerus always strongly infused his rosters with Utah talent, providing the program with a sturdy rock on which to build.
With players like Van Dyke, that cycle now seems to be repeating itself.
on twitter: @tjonessltrib
Utah at Boise State
P At Taco Bell Arena, Boise, 8 p.m.
TV • CBS Sports Network
Radio • ESPN 700 AM
Records • Utah 6-0; Boise State 6-0
Last meeting • Utah 76, Boise State 55 (December 5th, 2012)
About the Utes • Utah is attempting to win its seventh straight game to start the season. … Utah played at Boise two seasons ago, losing 80-59. … Jordan Loveridge is the only player who started in last years home win over the Broncos. … Utah defeated Ball State 88-69 in its last appearance. … Utah is scoring almost 90 points per game
About the Broncos • Derrick Marks scored a career-high 39 points against Idaho last week. … Boise State makes an average of 25.8 free throws per game, seventh in the country. … The Broncos make 9.8 3-pointers per contest. … Boise State is the only team from the 2013 NCAA Tournament to return all five starters
Parker Van Dyke file
• Is a former Class 4A all-state performer at East High
• Averages 5.2 points per game
• Chose Utah over Arizona State, Stanford and Utah State
• Played AAU basketball for Salt Lake Metro
• Delayed his LDS Church mission to play his freshman season at Utah
• Scored a career-high 12 points against Grand Canyon