He was one of Larry Krystkowiak’s first big recruiting coups. He was supposed to start at power forward last year while Jordan Loveridge acclimated himself to the college game. At the very least, Renan Lenz was supposed to be a factor.
Instead, last season was largely a nightmare for the 6-foot-10 Brazilian.
Lenz arrived to Utah out of shape and stayed that way. He never got into a groove, and found himself playing eight minutes a game of non-impact basketball.
"I just never got comfortable," Lenz said.
That narrative is on the verge of crumbling. Lenz has been one of the Utes’ big surprises during the first few weeks of practice. Gone is 20 pounds of fat, revealing a more athletic and faster Lenz. Gone is the hesitancy that defined the center last season. In a year where Krystkowiak is looking to find someone to score in the lane, Lenz has emerged as the leading candidate to replace Jason Washburn as Utah’s starting center.
It would be quite a turnaround.
"He’s really made a ton of improvement," Krystkowiak said. "We talked at the end of last year and I told him that he had to get into shape. He’s had a real sense of urgency because he’s a senior. I think the guys are rallying around him. This is his last go-around and you can tell that he knows this."
Lenz still has to prove he can play well under game conditions. But the improvement in his body and his skill is evident in practice. He’s moving better than he used to. He’s improved his vertical jump, and he’s more aggressive when he has the ball.
He credits this to staying on campus all summer, working out and dedicating himself to the weightroom. As a result, his role with Utah is changing. At the end of last year, he was buried on Krystkowiak’s depth chart. Now, he’s in line for significant minutes.
Kyle Kuzma, one of Utah’s prized 2014 recruits, signed his scholarship aid agreement on Thursday, clearing a path for him to enroll in school a year early. Kuzma, a 6-foot-9 small forward from Michigan, is still waiting to be officially accepted by Utah. Once that happens, he will be a partial-qualifier. He will have four years of eligibility, beginning next season.
Back at it
Loveridge returned to practice on Thursday, after missing two days because he had his knee drained. … Saturday’s practice at the Huntsman Center will be open to the public, beginning at 11:15 a.m. … The Utes will practice early on Monday — there is no school because of Columbus Day — then go on a team retreat.
on twitter: @tjonessltrib
Copyright 2013 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.