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Utah basketball: It's a critical offseason for Jordan Loveridge

Published July 18, 2014 11:04 am

During a critical offseason, Utah forward Jordan Loveridge has embraced his coach's challenge to elevate all aspects of his play.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated.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.

Layups. Then reverse layups. Then floaters. Then midrange jumpers.

It could take an hour. It could take all day, if his shot is off.

But Jordan Loveridge has been relentless with his latest workout, designed by former Utah basketball player Chris Fulton, one of the top 3-point shooters in program history. It's called "The Freak." It requires Loveridge to sink just about any shot imaginable, and in 19 spots, he has to hit at least four in a row before he can continue.

"That will be a big thing: If I'm open, I've been in the gym enough that I should make those shots," he said. "If I miss, it will be tough to have an excuse."

Over the years, the 6-foot-6 junior forward has shown his knack for reinvention and refinement when it comes to his game. He started as a high school big man, but added 3-point shooting and some ball-handling to become more perimeter-oriented as he transitioned to college. From his freshman to his sophomore year, his scoring ticked up, as did his shooting percentage and assists. He was the leading rebounder and second-leading scorer.

But as Utah men's basketball seeks to take its next step — one the team hopes is into the NCAA Tournament — Loveridge has been looking within for ways he can help get there.

"The coaches challenged me in the offseason," he said. "There's a lot I can work on."

His shooting, which was at 42 percent last year, can get better. And for every 21-point game, like he had against Colorado, there's a two-point game, like he had against Arizona.

And throughout his career, he's had shortcomings on the defensive end. Coaches have told him he needs to practice guarding the wings more, and not get beaten off the dribble.

Loveridge is accustomed to and even comfortable with turning a harsh light on himself. Those close to him say his work ethic helps make up for his flaws, and even help correct them. At a recent practice, coach Larry Kryskowiak drew attention to Loveridge's defensive effort, which rarely happened in his first two years.

"He's more cognizant of his defense and rebounding, and that's going to be critical for Jordan," Krystkowiak said. "He's getting to the point where teams have seen him for two years now, and they know what to do against him. If he wants to keep having the same success, he's got to become incrementally better."

The Utes require him to be more well-rounded for the rigors of Pac-12 play, but teammates may also push him. The 3 and 4 spots where Loveridge has made his name are arguably the team's deepest, and from returners to newcomers, there will be plenty of competition for minutes.

Last year, Loveridge was eighth in the conference in minutes played at 34.36 per game — a number which will almost certainly sink. Krystkowiak said a decline in minutes for Loveridge and Delon Wright should help them as the season goes along, but he also indicated he's interested to see how in-team competition unfolds.

"We've got a lot of talent at multiple positions now, and those guys will be pushing each other," he said. "It's hard to pencil in a starting lineup right now. Just because you're a two-year starter doesn't necessarily mean you'll be thrust into that role. Jordan knows that."

If experience won't guarantee that Loveridge will be a key player on next year's squad, he's trying to prove his merit. He's working on guarding the wing spots, and he's taking a bigger hand in showing freshmen the kind of work ethic Krystkowiak and his staff demand.

Beyond working out with Fulton to improve his skills as a wing, Loveridge has also been weightlifting with former Ute John Madsen alongside some football players throughout the valley. He's getting positive returns on his physical transformation this offseason.

It shouldn't surprise anyone. He's done it before.

"When I'm tired, I just remind myself I'm going to finish this and I'm going to be better for it," he said. "Every drill we do, once I get to the end, I'm going to be better."

kgoon@sltrib.com

Twitter: @kylegoon —

Jordan Loveridge ... so far

• The Utah junior forward was the Class 5A player of the year at West Jordan, an ESPN 100 recruit, and a BallisLife All-American.

• Averaged 12.1 points, 7.0 rebounds per game as a freshman.

• Averaged 14.7 points, 7.0 rebounds per game as a sophomore.