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Austrian center Jakob Poeltl 'excited' to be joining Runnin' Utes

Published April 24, 2014 1:50 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Give him time, Utah fans.

Jakob Poeltl, the Utes' newly committed Austrian 7-foot center, understands English very well. Even so, he and his family are taking a little bit of time to read over the paperwork before the 18-year-old officially signs on to the program.

But he's coming, all right.

"I'm excited to play college basketball," he said. "It will be hard to leave all my friends and family, and I really like my hometown. But I know this is the best thing for me to continue playing basketball and get better. I'm excited to play at Utah."

In a Thursday morning - afternoon in Austria - phone call with the Tribune, the Vienna native talked about committing to Utah early in the week. For Larry Krystkowiak and his staff, Poeltl represents a blue-chip big man added to an already strong 2014 recruiting class. As soon as he signs, which he estimated to be some time in the next few days, Poeltl will likely boost Utah's incoming group to among the top echelon of the Pac-12.

To Poeltl, the Utes represent a chance for him to develop his game in a big way. Already one of the best rebounders and defenders in the highest level of Austrian basketball, Poeltl says he sees Utah's staff as one that could help him achieve his goal to be the first of his countrymen - as far as any record shows - to play in the NBA.

He knows he does have a few things to work on as he gets used to the more physical American style of play.

"I have to get better athletically, and I have to get stronger," he said. "I want to develop my offensive play. So just work on my strength and shooting a little bit."

Last year playing for the Arkadia Traiskirchen Lions, he averaged 12.7 points, 7.5 rebounds and 2.3 blocks while shooting 72.2 percent from the field. It was his first season playing above the youth league, Poeltl said, and he learned a lot from going head-to-head with more mature players.

In a Wednesday interview with the Tribune, Lions GM Helmut Niederhofer said Poeltl "came from nowhere, and instead of developing slow, he was immediately making an impact."

One of the things Poeltl looks forward to most is the college game day atmosphere. There aren't hordes of passionate basketball fans in Austria, so one of the things that bowled him over on his official visit to the Huntsman Center were the scores of people who were cheering for the Utes - and for himself as well, hoping he'd commit there.

"It definitely was exciting," he said. "In Austria, fans aren't really as excited about basketball, because Austria isn't known as much for basketball. I didn't know the fans were that crazy over there. It will be fun."

Kyle Goonkgoon@sltrib.comTwitter: @kylegoon