Utah basketball: Center trio making things difficult for foes
By Tony Jones
The Salt Lake TribuneFirst published Dec 16 2013 04:33PM
It’s almost like Larry Krystkowiak has a flashback to his playing days every time he goes to practice at the Huntsman Center.
As a member of the Chicago Bulls, Utah’s coach played with a trio of centers in Bill Wennington, Luc Longley and Will Perdue who each provided a unique talent, and combined to be highly productive.
Now — 20 years later — Krystkowiak is seeing the same thing in his three centers.
What’s going on in the middle has been a shock to almost all involved. The Utes last season lost Jason Washburn, who developed into one of the better big men in the Pac-12, and there was no apparent replacement for his talents.
But this is where Renan Lenz, Jeremy Olsen and Dallin Bachynski enter the fray. Together, they have developed into a more than productive trio in the paint, averaging a cumulative 19 points and 10 rebounds per game.
The three have given Utah depth in the middle, something it has been sorely lacking in past seasons. On a team deep with guards, the trio have performed well beyond expectations through 10 games.
"There’s some competition and some depth there," Utes coach Krystkowiak said Monday. "We went through a long stretch with two healthy big men, and right now we have a three-pronged center attack. They have improved in the last few weeks and it’s our job as coaches to make sure the perimeter guys know we need to get them engaged if we want to succeed in the Pac-12."
Each provides something different. Bachynski — who scored 11 points and grabbed eight rebounds against BYU on Saturday — is a physical freak, seven-feet of strength and athleticism. Olsen is the most skilled of the three with his back to the basket. Lenz is the most mature, the most experienced and the best shooter from the perimeter.
Krystkowiak usually starts Lenz and then plays it by feel. If one is playing well, he usually plays the most minutes. The rotation has a chance to get deeper, as 6-11 Marko Kovacevic is getting healthy and closer to playing. Now, Krystkowiak says he has the option to go even bigger.
"Teams can’t just prepare for one of us," Bachynski said. "They have to prepare for all of us. We’ve really been working well together. We like what we’ve been developing."
Sophomore forward Jordan Loveridge raked in the honors on Monday. He was named the Pac-12 player of the week, and was named the CBSSports.com national player of the week.
Loveridge scored a career-high 27 points in a win over Idaho State last Tuesday. He followed that with a 21-point performance against BYU. He’s the first player in program history to win the Pac-12 honor.
"It’s a great feeling to win it and it’s great for the program," Loveridge said. "I’m definitely blessed. I just want to keep working hard, and keep trying to get better every day."
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