Utes have a lot of freshmen and finals this week, so how does Larry Krystkowiak handle that?

Utah forward Mikael Jantunen (20) and UC Davis forward Kennedy Koehler (10) work for position under the boards during the second half during an NCAA college basketball game Friday, Nov. 29, 2019, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

The postgame question posed to Utah freshmen Jaxon Brenchley and Mikael Jantunen caused them to quickly glance at each other, then give a slight laugh.

Brenchley and Jantunen are two of the Utes’ 10 freshmen. As freshmen, they are on a college campus for the first time. It is currently finals week, so the players, high-major Division I athletes with limited time to spare, now get to worry about exams for the first time.

So, how are Brenchley and Jantunen handling what is always a stressful time for college students, while having to worry about practice this week?

“We’re both freshmen, so we’ve never had to deal with this before, but I’ve got two or three finals the next few days, so I need to get ready for that,” Brenchley said following Utah’s 98-67 win over Central Arkansas, which moved the Utes to 7-2. “I think we’re going to move practice around to fit our finals schedules, so it should be interesting.

“I think I have practice, then straight to a math final, so I’m the opposite of ‘Mickey.’ ”

Added Jantunen, with a smile: “I only have one final, and I think it’s on our off day next week. I’ve got a pretty good setup for next week, so not too much stress.”



Where • Vivint SmartHome Arena

When • Saturday, 2 p.m.


Not all finals weeks are created equal. Jantunen is undeclared, as are several other Utes. Brenchley is pre-business, as are fellow freshmen Rylan Jones, Hunter Mecum, Brandon Haddock and Branden Carlson.

Either way, Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak doesn’t sound too concerned about everyone balancing everything. As is commonplace for a lot of programs most years, the Utes don’t have to worry about preparing for an opponent this week during finals. Coming off Central Arkansas, they don’t play again until they face Weber State Saturday afternoon at Vivint SmartHome Arena as part of the Beehive Classic (2 p.m., Pac-12 Networks).

Utah was due to practice on Monday and Tuesday, take Wednesday off, then practice again on Thursday and Friday in preparation for the Wildcats.

The Utes will get their practices in this week, and everyone will deal with final exams and papers, but then comes every coach’s favorite time of the season, semester break. Krystkowiak will have just over three weeks to work with his players without having to worry about schoolwork.

Spring semester classes do not start at Utah until Jan. 6. In the time between semesters, the Utes will play five games, including their first two Pac-12 games at home against Oregon State on Jan. 2 and Oregon on Jan. 4.

“I can remember in my college days, finals week to some seems like it’s a huge load, but really, it’s kind of when it starts easing off,” Krystkowiak said. “There’s not a ton of academic time that needs to be spent. We need to get better, so we’ll take four out of those five days next week.

“We’ve got to fix some things, and knock on wood, hopefully we can remain healthy and have some real positive practices, full-speed practices. We haven’t been able to do that recently, but we need to make some improvements in a lot of areas."

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