Utes coach Larry Krystkowiak gives his players a few more weeks to return to campus

(Francisco Kjolseth | Tribune file photo) Utah basketball coach Larry Krystkowiak argues a call with a referee as the University of Utah hosts Stanford in NCAA men's basketball, Thursday, Feb. 6, 2020, at the Jon M. Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City.

Larry Krystkowiak doesn’t appear to be in any rush to get his team back to the University of Utah.

On June 17, the NCAA Division I Council approved a plan that allows required summer athletic activities to begin for men’s and women’s basketball starting July 20.

Instead of holding his players, two of whom are currently outside the United States, to that date, Krystkowiak is opting for more flexibility. Instead of July 20, the Utes head coach has set a date of Aug. 10 for when he hopes to have his entire roster in Salt Lake City.

“Each state is different, schools are going about things differently, but I think (director of athletic training) Trevor (Jameson), “Rock” (men’s basketball strength coach Charles Stephenson), our medical people and our leadership are dialed in,” Krystkowiak told The Salt Lake Tribune. “The whole thing has been a well-oiled machine and all of our guys have been smart.”

Utah started bringing back student-athletes for voluntary workouts on June 15. Since then, eight men’s basketball players, including six in-state kids, have returned.

While Aug. 10 is now the circled date, Krystkowiak said he will not stand in the way of anyone wanting to return beforehand. Although, anyone else returning before Aug. 10 would appear doubtful.

Senior shooting guard Alfonso Plummer is home in Puerto Rico, Senagalese-born redshirt sophomore forward Lahat Thioune remains with the host family he lived while attending Florida Prep in Central Florida, and junior forward Riley Battin is expected to stay in Southern California until August.

Three other big pieces of the puzzle are not expected until Aug. 10. Incoming freshman guard Pelle Larsson and sophomore forward Mikael Jantunen remain in their native Sweden and Finland, respectively, while they train with their national team programs. Junior wing Timmy Allen, Utah’s leading scorer and rebounder last season, will stay home in Arizona until August, both Krystkowiak and Allen’s godfather, Ray Arvizu, told The Tribune.

Allen, as expected, announced Thursday evening that he was removing his name from the NBA Draft underclassmen pool. While the move was expected since Allen declared in late April, the finality of his return pleases Krystkowiak, who lost Both Gach to transfer and Caleb Lohner to a National Letter of Intent release.

“These are crazy times and there are a lot of variables in play,” Krystkowiak said. “He has worked unbelievably hard, focusing on his body, working to become a more-consistent outside shooter. My hope all along is that he would come back. With everything going on, it’s unfortunate there have not been NBA workouts. It wasn’t a great year to test the waters.

“He really hasn’t been worried about that. He’s been leading this team, he’s been a leading voice on Zoom calls and his academics are dialed in.”

One significant factor in Krystkowiak offering return-date flexibility to his players is that once they get back to campus, it will likely be a long while before they can go home again.

The start of mandatory workouts will roll right into the beginning of Utah’s fall semester on Aug. 24. Out-of-season workouts can then commence and, assuming an on-time start to the college basketball season, practice can begin on Sept. 29. With a spike in coronavirus cases, that on-time start is far from a sure thing. For now, Utah is scheduled to open its season Nov. 10 vs. Utah Valley at the Huntsman Center.

The next window, at least for out-of-state players, to go home, even for a few days, would presumably come after the Utes play Rice on Dec. 22. Under normal, non-pandemic conditions, the Pac-12 schedule generally begins around, or sometimes on New Year’s Day.