Utah guard Vante Hendrix's departure from the basketball team this week after playing in the Utes' first four games as a redshirt freshman is “a pretty private, isolated case,” and not part of any pattern of players transferring out of the program in recent years, coach Larry Krystkowiak said Wednesday.
In his weekly media briefing after practice, Krystkowiak wouldn't say whether he or Hendrix made the decision to part ways.
Hendrix averaged 7.8 points in 17.8 minutes of four games in a Ute tenure that ended last Thursday. He had an exchange with Krystkowiak on the sideline, shown by ESPN2, after receiving a technical foul and being taken out of the game with 1:29 remaining in a 90-79 loss to Hawaii in the first round of the Wooden Legacy at Fullerton, Calif.
Hendrix didn’t attend the Utes' last two games of the tournament, a win over Grand Canyon and a loss to Northwestern. He apparently intends to complete the academic semester and consider other schools as a transfer. Formerly known as Devante Doutrive, he sat out last season after arriving on campus as a late academic qualifier.
The Utes (3-3), who host Tulsa on Saturday afternoon at the Huntsman Center, likely will give much of Hendrix's playing time to Charles Jones Jr., who has made little impact offensively for Utah as a junior college transfer. The former NJCAA player of the year is scoring 2.3 points and Krystkowiak hopes he's among the players who will benefit from a more simplified approach.
The coaching staff has “put maybe too much on their plate, offensively and defensively,” Krystkowiak said. “Believe me, I've had some sleepless nights trying to figure it out, and the simplification is going to be key, to where we can maybe let some instincts fly and not be thinking about things.”
Sophomore forward Donnie Tillman said the less-structured scheme should “get us moving” and has worked well in practice this week, with several players thriving in different spots on the court. Tillman hopes the Utes will play with “newfound confidence” Saturday after struggling in a 79-58 loss to Northwestern.
The Utes are in a phase of playing only on Saturdays for three weeks, making their practice schedule “a little bit like a training camp,” Krystkowiak said. After meeting Tulsa, Utah will play BYU on Dec. 8 at Vivint Smart Home Arena and visit No. 10 Kentucky on Dec. 15.