With three sophomores and two freshmen in Utah's starting lineup and other freshmen in the playing rotation, the future appears encouraging for the Ute basketball program. The outlook is expected to improve even more Wednesday, when the country's No. 5-ranked recruiting class comes aboard.
By signing three Top 100 players, plus Sky View High School multisport athlete Mason Falslev, Ute coach Larry Krystkowiak anticipates welcoming his most impressive group in nine years on the job.
“Oh, it's awesome for us,” Krystowiak said during his weekly news conference Tuesday, without identifying the players, by NCAA rule.
In addition to the 6-foot-3 Falslev, who’s also a football star for the Cache Valley school, the group includes Ian Martinez, a 6-3 guard from J Serra Catholic in Southern California; Caleb Lohner, a 6-6 forward who grew up in Texas and plays at Wasatch Academy in Mount Pleasant; and Pelle Larsson, a 6-5 combo guard from Sweden who committed last week.
Martinez is a son of Ute assistant coach Henry Martinez, who joined the staff in late May after DeMarlo Slocum took a job at UNLV.
Utah is behind only Duke, North Carolina, Kentucky and Tennessee in the 247Sports recruiting rankings. The rest of the top 10 includes Texas Tech, Virginia, Baylor, Xavier and Louisville.
“From a basketball perspective, we're getting some highly skilled players,” Krystkowiak said. “That's a huge part, obviously. You have to recruit talent and guys that understand the game, but they're all just great kids. They're really unique kids, they aren't all the same. Different personalties.”
The recruits will provide “some athleticism that we haven't had in the past,” Krystkowiak said. “That can be fun, if it's used properly.”
Falslev, whose Sky View football team plays in the Class 4A semifinals Friday night at Rice-Eccles Stadium, committed to Utah in the summer of 2018. Lohner was a surprise commitment in August, as a national recruit who had not announced any finalists but was known to be a top target of BYU, with family roots in Provo. Martinez’s commitment was reported in May, the same week as Utah announced his father’s hiring as an full-time assistant coach.
That status made his son's recruitment permissible by NCAA rules, regardless of the timing. In the case of Utah freshman guard Rylan Jones, his father had to be hired to a support staff position (Chris Jones is the Utes' director of basketball operations) two years prior to his signing.
Each of Utah’s three assistant coaches has a one-year contract, according to documents obtained by The Salt Lake Tribune via an open records request. Martinez’s salary is $150,000; associate head coach Tommy Connor makes $443,000. That scale is fairly similar to how the coordinators of the Utah football staff are paid, compared with position coaches.
Henry Martinez, who has coaching experience at the high school and pro levels and with the Costa Rica National Team, is known for his teaching ability in working with players individually. “He was quite a player himself, and he understands skill development,” Krystkowiak said. “Guys want to have someone that's willing to put in time with them, to help [improve] their weaknesses.”
The Utes (2-0) will host Minnesota on Friday at the Huntsman Center, then play three games next week in the Myrtle Beach Classic in South Carolina. Utah’s first opponent will be the host team, Coastal Carolina.
MINNESOTA AT UTAH
When • Friday, 7 p.m.
TV • Pac-12 Network