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Standing in the locker room after Utah’s quarterfinal loss to Oregon in the Pac-12 tournament in March, Ute forward Donnie Tillman promised to become “more of a leader” in 2019-20.
Tillman’s veteran presence will be needed this season, when the Utes have only one other junior — guard Alfonso Plummer, a junior college transfer — on a roster with no seniors. That’s among the reasons that Tillman’s return to the Utes this week was so important, after he went through an NBA evaluation process in May.
Ute coach Larry Krystkowiak and his staff will have a lot of young players to work with in 2019, with six incoming freshmen and two redshirt freshmen among 13 scholarship athletes. And more young talent is coming in 2020, with southern California guard Ian Martinez committing to Utah this week. Martinez can sign with the Utes in November, during his senior year at Serra High School in San Juan Capistrano, Calif.
In a move that’s probably not a coincidence, Krystkowiak has announced the hiring of Martinez’s father, Henry, as the replacement for assistant coach DeMarlo Slocum.
Ian Martinez is rated by 247Sports as a four-star recruit, and is potentially the No. 2 highest-ranked signee in the Krystkowiak era – behind Brekkott Chapman, who finished his college career at Weber State.
— Utah basketball fans would have enjoyed the 2019 NBA Finals more if Toronto hadn’t traded former Ute stars Jakob Poeltl and Delon Wright in the past year, but Andrew Bogut’s return to Golden State provides a Ute angle. It is remarkable that Arnie Ferrin, whose first pro basketball title 70 years ago predated the NBA, is the only Ute alumnus to have won two championships.
— As of Thursday, the countdown to the Aug. 29 Utah-BYU football game is at 13 weeks. The 8:15 p.m. kickoff time in Provo has been announced, along with another extreme part of the television window (11 a.m.) for the Utes’ home opener vs. Northern Illinois on Sept. 7.
— With the help of the @SportsPac12 Twitter account, I captured a couple of snapshots of Utah’s eight-year football performance in the conference. Not surprisingly, the Utes ranked high defensively in multiple categories and low in some offensive aspects. Utah expects offensive improvement and continued defensive excellence, with a new contract and big raise for coordinator Morgan Scalley.
Pac-12 expert Jon Wilner examines the nonconference football schedules for 2019, and is not an advocate of Utah’s soft approach, considering the Utes’ potential on a national scale (MERC).
Former Salt Lake Trappers pitcher John Savage was named the Pac-12 Coach of the Year, as the Bruins earned the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament (YAHOO).
Here’s a review of the Utes’ NCAA skiing championship (DNEWS).
— Utah Athletic Director Mark Harlan will speak Friday at the memorial service for former Arizona football coach Dick Tomey, who has been one of his longtime mentors, stemming from Harlan’s work as a student manager for the Wildcats. Ron McBride coached under Tomey before becoming Utah’s head coach in 1990. The Pac-12 Networks will televise the service at 10 a.m.
— The next checkpoint for Utah Athletics is the Major League Baseball draft, with junior second baseman Oliver Dunn expected to be taken sometime between Monday and Wednesday. The Cottonwood High School alumnus had a terrific season and is likely to launch his pro career, after making the All-Pac-12 first team and being named to Collegiate Baseball’s All-America third team. Look for a Tribune story about Dunn in the coming days.
— Officially, the athletic department’s 2018-19 school year ended Monday, when Ute senior Kyler Dunkle made a par putt on the 18th hole to complete his amateur golf career with a 28th-place finish in the NCAA Championships at Fayetteville, Ark.
The ending was somewhat disappointing, considering Dunkle was tied for fourth place after two rounds, before shooting 77-79. But having a player in contention at nationals was another advancement for the program, and Dunkle already has jumped into pro golf in Canada, as of Thursday.