In the past six months, my analysis of the University of Utah’s basketball recruiting has revolved around the players the Ute staff barely missed signing and those who came to the school and subsequently left.
I may have given coach Larry Krystkowiak and his staff too much credit for coming close to landing the likes of Arizona’s Lauri Markannen and Gonzaga’s Zach Collins and Killian Tillie. I may have overly criticized them for failing to retain the nine players who have transferred in the past two years. The circumstances vary in each athlete’s case, although I’ll stick with the belief that Utah’s evaluations and expectations should have been more thorough.
In any case, with the variable that nobody knows for sure how these incoming athletes’ careers will play out, the Ute coaches deserve praise for what they’re doing with the 2018 recruiting class. They have commitments from a junior college guard and four high school players — including guard Devante Doutrive, who graduated this year and will redshirt in 2017-18. The others plan to sign in November and arrive next year.
The momentum may have started with a 2019 high school graduate. The early August commitment of Olympus point guard Rylan Jones, a son of Utah director of basketball operations Chris Jones, logically played a part in the others’ pledges. He’s the kind of player other guys want to join.
The other commitments:
• Charles Jones II, a 6-foot-2 guard from the College of Southern Idaho
• Naseem Gaskin, a 6-3 guard from Bishop O’Dowd High School in Oakland, Calif.
• Devante Doutrive, a 6-5 guard from Birmingham High School in Van Nuys, Calif.
• Timmy Allen, a 6-5 wing from Red Mountain High School in Mesa, Ariz.
• Riley Battin, a 6-10 forward from Oak Park (Calif.) High School.
Jones, Doutrive, Allen and Battin are four-star recruits. Exactly how they will blend into the program and create roles for themselves will be interesting to see, but I know this: Fans who closely follow Ute basketball recruiting are revved up, after being disappointed in recent years. Krystkowiak, whose contract runs through 2023, is showing signs of building a strong program well into the next decade.
And this recruiting class undoubtedly will ease some of the disappointment of last season — and the coming season.
With the loss of forward Kyle Kuzma as a first-round pick of the Los Angeles Lakers, the Utes are unlikely to make the NCAA Tournament in 2018, after settling for the NIT last year. But nobody can question the recruiting efforts of Krystkowiak and his staff lately – and even if they had landed Markkanen or Collins, those guys are already in the NBA.