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Matt Piper and Kyle Goon
Matt Piper and Kyle Goon cover University of Utah sports teams for The Salt Lake Tribune. Matt Piper is on twitter at @matthew_piper, Kyle Goon is on twitter at @kylegoon

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Utes basketball offers 2019 G Rylan Jones, 'unique' rising eighth grader

For one of Utah's latest men's basketball offerees, you'll have to wait for the highlight tape. You'll probably be waiting a while.

That's because Rylan Jones, a point guard from Cache Valley, is going into the eighth grade this year.

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That's right. The Utes have offered a kid who is a year out from playing high school basketball. His AAU team, Utah Basketball Club, doesn't keep official stats for that age group. He's got a few inches to grow before he reaches six feet.

It's not an unheard-of phenomena: From O.J. Mayo to Seventh Woods, college scholarships sometimes are given to those prodigies who take YouTube by storm.

Jones is clearly different. There's not much hype save word of mouth, but when people see him play, they pay attention.

"Rylan is a kid that is well above and beyond the seventh grade," coach Eric B. Johnson said. "He just sees the floor extremely well. You've just got to see him play, that's the only way to understand how unique he is. He's a little gamer."

Offering players that young breeds skepticism, admittedly, but here's the case for Jones: His skill set includes court vision, quality passing, a 3-point range that recalls Nick Emery in middle school, and an understanding of the game that comes from being a coach's son.

Chris Jones, an assistant coach at Utah State who played guard and coached at The U., has brought his son around to games for years, and even coached him on a few of his teams. The result, Johnson said, is a well-rounded player who college coaches know about already (because of his dad) and who has assets that should adapt well to higher levels of play.

Not only does Rylan seem to have a deeper understanding of basketball, he also has a certain element of swagger. When his team was playing a game in Portland this summer, Johnson estimated that the 13-year-old scored about 16 points in the final four minutes. He utilized cuts, long shots, just about everything in his arsenal.

"It's kind of funny when we walk onto the floor, other guys have no idea who this kid is," Johnson said. "He just lights them up."

Of course, Larry Krystkowiak knows exactly the type of player Jones is: He's teammates with his son, Luc. He's gotten glimpses of his potential for years already, and recently invited Jones to the Utes' basketball camp. Seeing the smaller guard hold his own against bigger and more mature guys may have helped cement Krystkowiak's decision to offer him.

His pitch was essentially this: We've seen you play, we think you're going to be a great point guard, and we want you to play where your dad played.

As you might expect, Jones is likely a long way off from deciding, and it seems likely that as long as his dad is at Utah State, that could be a strong draw down the road. But the Utes are in the conversation, which Johnson suspects many other colleges will join before too long.

"To Larry's credit - and to Tommy Connor's credit and the rest of the staff - they've gotten to know Utah prospects at a deep level, which is something their predecessors didn't do," Johnson said. "For them, it's a Utah kid with upside, and it makes sense. It's definitely the youngest kid I've coached that's gotten an offer, but I'm not really surprised."

Kyle Goon

kgoon@sltrib.com

Twitter: @kylegoon



Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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