As Rylan Jones prepared to return to University of Utah athletic facilities for voluntary workouts this week, there was some curiosity as to how the sophomore point guard has spent his time during the COVID-19 pandemic.
There was a lot of hanging out at home and, honestly, who could blame him for that? Jones was oft-injured as a freshman in gutting out 28 mostly productive games, capped by a season-ending concussion at Cal on Feb. 29.
Jones has been able to lift weights, something Utes coach Larry Krystkowiak has said in recent months was an absolute necessity for his point guard. Jones got shooting workouts done outdoors, sometimes indoors if a church allowed him access to its gymnasium. He caught up with old friends newly returned home from LDS missions.
Finally, with Jones adept at two sports, he was able to keep up with his second, less-heralded endeavor.
“My golf game has improved quite a bit since quarantine,” Jones told The Salt Lake Tribune half-jokingly last week.
On March 20, with the pandemic growing and a 5.7 magnitude earthquake having hit the Wasatch Front two days prior, the Salt Lake City Golf Division shut down its six public golf courses. Five of them reopened on April 2 with health protocols and social-distancing restrictions in place.
Golf gave Jones, if nothing else, a good excuse to get out of the house. Furthermore, golf is a sport that can easily be played solo or in a small group, which should in theory make social distancing easy to pull off.
“When quarantine started, one thing I definitely wondered was whether or not golf courses would close,” said Jones, whose handicap is currently 3.5. “My dad and I golf all the time in the summer, but with a quarantine, who knows what was going to happen.
“You can play golf with social distancing. You’re never within 10 feet of anyone except maybe the green and other than that, just be smart and play safe.
“It’s better than watching more Netflix.”
Jones played at Glendale a ton in high school, but noted he likes to get around and play different courses, with Bonneville, which is situated in Salt Lake City’s east bench, being one of them. By any measure, Jones is well-seasoned with a club in his hands.
By comparison, Jaxon Brenchley is not. Jones is an avid golfer, but Brenchley, a sophomore guard, just began picking up the sport during quarantine.
Living in Providence, Logan River Golf Course is less than 10 minutes away, and it allows Brenchley to do something with his siblings and his father.
No, as of last week, Jones and Brenchley had not yet played a round together.
“It does feel like things are getting back to normal, and this is something I’m able to do with family, buddies, whatever,” Brenchley told The Tribune. “If you want to play some golf, let me know.”
“Golf is a hard game,” Jones added. “Jaxon, he told me he made his first birdie, he’s starting to pick it up. Me, I just love it. It’s relaxing, and I really think it helps you work on the mental aspect of sports.
“I look at golf as being helpful in trying to improve as a basketball player.”
Jones and Brenchley were both due back on campus Monday to begin voluntary workouts. Their presence was confirmed by an 11-second video tweeted out from @UtahMBB late Monday afternoon, which also included 7-foot sophomore center Branden Carlson and explosive incoming freshman wing Ian Martinez, the son of Utes assistant coach Henry Martinez.