Rylan Jones, probably more so than anyone else on the Utes men’s basketball team, is willing to step into traffic, give up his body, and get crushed by an oncoming offensive player.
And coach Larry Krystkowiak isn’t about to ask his freshman point guard to stop drawing charges.
On first glance, Jones doesn’t look like a fearsome defensive player, but he’s been exactly that for the Utes, who earned a weekend split of the Los Angeles schools thanks to a 79-65 win over USC on Sunday night.
A lot of the time, Jones is giving up inches and weight to that offensive player, which could make the collision quite violent.
“He took three charges tonight, that’s just a warrior play,” Krystkowiak said. “It’s such a valuable asset when you’ve got somebody that will give his body up. I’ve always said the best play in basketball is the charge. It’s a momentum play. It’s obviously a foul and you only get five of them, and you get the ball, unlike a blocked shot where you don’t always get the ball.”
With 3:10 to play and Utah leading USC, 67-62, Trojans redshirt senior guard Daniel Utomi pushed the ball in transition. Jones hustled back, stepped in front of Utomi and took his third charge. On the collision, both players went down, Utomi landing on Jones’ right leg. Jones stayed on the ground for a couple of minutes before being helped to the tunnel without putting weight on the leg. He did not return.
Chalk it up to the hazards of the job.
“He’s been doing it for a lot of years,” Krystkowiak said. “All I can say is you’re never going to ask him to not do it, because he’s dang good at it, but we’ve got to get some body armor on him.”
As is usually the case when it comes to injuries, Krystkowiak gave no details on Jones’ status. For what it’s worth, he could be seen on crutches, with ice on the leg.
While Jones’ status is unknown, compounding this problem is the fact that Utah has a quick turnaround this week. The Utes will face another NCAA Tournament bubble dweller, Stanford, on Wednesday at Maples Pavilion. They are then off until Saturday when they will play at Cal.
Jones has missed one game this season, Dec. 14 vs. Weber State. Fellow-freshman Jaxon Brenchley started that game, and will likely get the call Wednesday if Jones cannot go.
According to KenPom.com, Jones has played a whopping 84% of the available minutes at point guard over Utah’s past five games. Of the Utes’ 10 most-frequently used lineups in that span, Jones was a part of nine of them.