With no way of knowing what each other was thinking at the time, Chris and Rylan Jones shared a father-son moment Monday night.
As the Utah basketball team took the court at Minnesota, Chris Jones sat on the bench and pictured his son playing for the Utes next season, wondering how he would respond in that setting. Back home in Utah, Rylan Jones asked himself the same question: Could I really play in that game?
The answers will come soon enough. Rylan Jones, Olympus High School's point guard, signed a letter of intent Wednesday as part of Utah's three-player class of 2019, ranked No. 5 in the Pac-12 and No. 28 nationally by 247 Sports.
Jones committed in August 2017 to Utah, where his father is in his third season as the director of basketball operations.
Utah also landed Finnish forward Mikael Jantunen and Matt Van Komen, Pleasant Grove’s 7-foot-4 center, who signed his letter after Ute coach Larry Krystkowiak’s media session. In a statement issued later, Krystkowiak said Van Komen “has the ability to change the game from a defensive perspective. He can be an elite rim protector."
Speaking about Jones and Jantuen in his post-practice interview, Krystkowiak said, “Rylan’s been making a lot of people better around him for a lot of years, including my own [sons] playing with him in AAU ball. He just has a nice feel for the game.”
Rylan Jones spent part of his childhood in Salt Lake City as his father formerly coached for Utah, collecting a basketball autographed by 2005 stars Andrew Bogut and Marc Jackson, another Olympus product. Jones played at Logan High as a freshman, when his father coached at Utah State.
“He just fell in love with [basketball] and it kind of came instinctively to him, and he’s worked at it,” his father said.
Jones averaged 18.6 points, 10.0 assists and 6.7 rebounds as Olympus went 27-0 last season, winning four games in the Class 5A tournament by an average of 32.5 points. The Titans beat Corner Canyon 76-49 in the title game at the Huntsman Center as Jones posted 24 points, six rebounds and six assists.
He was named the Tribune Player of the Year for all classifications. Jones is ranked as the No. 9 point guard and the No. 106 player overall in the class of 2019 by 247 Sports. Van Komen, who committed to Utah in July, is No. 39 among centers and No. 194 overall.
Van Komen made the All-Tribune statewide team after averaging 16.6 points, 9.3 rebounds and 5.0 blocked shots for the Vikings, who lost to Lone Peak in the 6A championship game.
Jantunen's connection to Utah is through former Ute star Hanno Mottola, an assistant coach for the Helsinki Basketball Academy. The 6-8 Jantunen averaged 17 points and 10 rebounds for Finland in the the FIBA Under 18 European Championships and played for the senior team in World Cup qualifier.
“He’s one of the elite rebounders in Europe; his passing skills and rebounding skills are off the charts,” Krystkowiak said.
Jones and Jantunen “both love the game,” Krystkowiak said, “and I know they’re both just scratching the surface when it comes to how good they can be.”
That description applies to Van Komen, who game has developed more gradually, as his strength and conditioning have improved.
Utah’s women’s program signed Kemery Martin, a guard from Corner Canyon, and Brynna Maxwell, a guard from Gig Harbor, Wash.
Martin averaged 20.8 points, 5.5 rebounds and 4.1 assists for the Chargers as a junior.
“When I got the job here at Utah, signing this local star was a top priority,” coach Lynne Roberts said, “and [Martin] has remained at the top of the recruiting list ever since.”
Utah’s women’s gymnastics team signed USA National Team member Abby Paulson and Junior Olympic national champions Jillian Hoffman and Jaedyn Rucker.
The three “bring a championship pedigree and elite-level skills to our team,” Ute co-coach Tom Farden said.
Paulson is from Anoka, Minn.; Hoffman is from Murrieta, Calif.; and Rucker is from Mesa, Ariz.
Paulson’s best event is the beam and Rucker excels on vault. Hoffman is capable of competing as an all-arounder as a freshman, Farden said.
Mississippi Valley State at Utah
At the Huntsman Center
Tipoff: 6 p.m.
TV: Pac-12 Networks.
Radio: ESPN 700.
Records: MVSU 0-3; Utah 1-1.
Series history: Utah leads, 1-0.
Last meeting: Utah 91, MVSU 51 (2017).
About the Delta Devils: MVSU is making another swing through Utah, having lost 94-53 at Utah State on Tuesday, when the Aggies led 53-24 at halftime. Senior guard Jordan Evans scored 29 points for the Delta Devils. … The team’s previous losses this month were 106-37 at Nebraska and 82-54 at Texas Tech. … MVSU will play at Robert Morris on Saturday in Pittsburgh to conclude this trip.
About the Utes: Utah lost 78-69 at Minnesota on Monday, after trailing by 15 points in the second half. Sedrick Barefield and Vante Hendrix each scored 14 points for the Utes and Novak Topalovic added 13, but Utah shot only 40 percent from the field. … Coach Larry Krystkowiak said that all five players properly executed only 16 percent of Utah’s offensive plays, and the team converted only 16 of 36 scoring opportunities from close range against a physical Big Ten opponent. … The Utes will play next week in the eight-team Wooden Legacy at Fullerton, Calif.