Utah basketball: Utes again starting over, but with more to work with
When Larry Krystkowiak takes the court at the Huntsman Center on Friday afternoon, the coach, standing 6 feet 9 inches tall, will finally be able to make direct eye contact with some of his players.
Generally speaking, height is taken for granted in major Division I college basketball. Not so with the University of Utah. Last season, the Utes had one player over 6-foot-6: Jason Washburn. This time around, even with David Foster done for the year, there are five.
Yes, Krystkowiak's team will finally look like a typical Pac-12 crew. And that's the first step back to respectability after the 6-25 disaster of the 2011 season.
"We have a lot more talent this season, a lot more options," Krystkowiak said. "We'll see how the pieces are able to fit, but the pieces are there. We have a lot of work to do."
The work will have to be done in a short period of time. The season officially starts three weeks from Friday for Utah. Gone are the days of easing into the schedule. These days, practice is a sprint to the real thing.
Krystkowiak knows this. So the first few practices will be spent on fundamentals. Then, the Utes will spend time implementing the system on both sides of the ball. Conditioning will be a major factor. Krystkowiak has stressed that everyone needs to know what to expect and to be on the same page.
"We know that time is limited, so guys are going to have to come in and work hard. But we're excited for the season to finally get started. It's been a long time coming."
In a large sense, Utah is starting over for the second consecutive year. Gone is the majority of the roster from Krystkowiak's debut; Washburn and senior guard Cedric Martin are the only two players who saw minutes from last season.
In its place, at least Krystkowiak hopes, is a team that can make significant strides this winter and set a winning foundation for the future.
Jordan Loveridge, arguably the best high school player in the state last year, comes in with plenty of expectation. Glen Dean and Aaron Dotson should start after spending redshirt years last season. Jarred DuBois is poised to help, immediately eligible from Loyola Marymount.
Krystkowiak doesn't know how it will all shake out. But Friday represents a new start for the Utah basketball program.
Utah basketball at a glance
Record last season • 6-25
Returning starters • Jason Washburn and Cedric Martin
Key newcomers • Glen Dean, Aaron Dotson, Jordan Loveridge
Regular season opener • Willamette, Nov. 9