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(Chris Detrick | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Utes center Jeremy Olsen (41) shoots over Grand Canyon Antelopes' Akachi Okugo (14) during the first half of the game at The Huntsman Center Thursday November 21, 2013. Utah is winning 37-20 at halftime.
Utah basketball: Jeremy Olsen uses maturity, touch to lead Utes in the paint
Utah basketball » 23-year-old soph is a weapon in the paint.
First Published Feb 22 2014 03:35 pm • Last Updated Feb 22 2014 10:20 pm

Jeremy Olsen’s life is a whirlwind.

He’ll be Utah’s starting center on Sunday night against Arizona State at the Huntsman Center, charged with the task of trying to supply the Utes with an inside presence against Jordan Bachynski, who may be the best inside defender in college basketball.

At a glance

Arizona State at Utah

At the Huntsman Center

Tipoff » Sunday, 6 p.m.

TV » ESPNU

Radio » 700 AM

Records » Utah 17-9 (6-8); Arizona State 19-7 (8-5)

Series history » Utah leads 27-20

Last meeting » Arizona State 79-75 (Jan. 23)

About the Sun Devils » ASU was one of the finalists for Utah recruit and Roy High senior Brekkott Chapman. … Arizona State is one of only two teams to beat Arizona this season. … Jahii Carson scored 23 points against the Utes in the first meeting between the two teams. … ASU is 8-5 in the Pac-12 and looking for a bye in the conference tournament.

About the Utes » Utah and Arizona State have split the last two meetings. … The Utes are looking to move to 7-8 in the Pac-12. … Jordan Loveridge led Utah with 22 points in the last meeting. … The Utes led ASU by as many as nine points in the loss last month. … This is Utah’s first game of the season on the ESPN networks.

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His life as a student-athlete is a consistent crash course in academics, study hall, basketball practice, film sessions and conditioning in the weight room. As if that wasn’t enough, Olsen is slated to marry his fiancée, Chelsey Schofield, in May.

Yes, he also has a wedding to plan for.

"We’re lucky that Chelsey’s mother used to be a planner for 20 years," Olsen says with a smile. "It can get pretty busy at times, but it’s all worth it. You just kind of put 100 percent into everything you do. You study as hard as you can and play as hard as you can and let the chips fall where they may."

Olsen is a part of the group that may someday be looked back upon as the group that revived Utah basketball. Along with Jordan Loveridge, Dakarai Tucker and Brandon Taylor, Olsen is in the "core four" if you will, sophomores who played a lot and took their lumps as freshmen. Now, they are all starters.

The difference with Olsen is his age and experience. He’s already 23 years old, having served an LDS Church mission in London before he ever played a game of college basketball. For two more years, he will represent the very last link to the Jim Boylen regime, as one of the final recruits for Larry Krystkowiak’s predecessor.

His maturity on and off the court serves as a welcome addition to a team that’s rife with younger players in key roles. For a team that’s 17-9 on the season and looking for the 20-win plateau, there’s a ton of youth.

Olsen is a welcome contrast to that youth.

"It helps," Krystkowiak said. "Jeremy’s a little farther down the road in life than some of the other guys are. He’s not a vocal guy, he kind of goes about his business quietly and just gets it done."


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Along with Dallin Bachynski, Olsen’s formed an effective two-headed duo at center that’s played better than expected this season. Bachynski serves as the energy and the hustle. He blocks shots, he rebounds, he fires up the crowd with his all-out play in the paint.

Olsen is different. He’s more cerebral, a technician in the post. He’s Utah’s best player with his back to the basket. And while he lacks elite athleticism, he’s able to score down low with either hand and possesses a jump shot out to 15 feet.

"I want to get better at everything," Olsen said. "I think I’ve gotten better defensively as the year goes on. I love the coaching staff and love playing for the coaching staff. They never made me feel like I was recruited by someone else. They treat me the same way as they do everyone else, and I love that about them."

The partnership with Bachynski works for all involved. Sometimes, Olsen plays more. Sometimes — like last Wednesday’s matchup against Arizona — Bachynski gets more minutes. It’s all about feel, matchups and who can stay out of foul trouble in a given game.

But it’s rather obvious Utah’s at its best when Olsen’s having a good day offensively. He provides the balance to the Utes’ perimeter attack.

"We like where we’re at with those two," Krystkowiak said. "We’re trying to figure out a way to kind of get all of the big men involved."

tjones@sltrib.com

Twitter: @tjonessltrib



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