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Utah forward Mikael Jantunen to return early after stint with Finnish national team

Jantunen and Finland qualified for EuroBasket 2022 on Friday morning

Oregon State's Tres Tinkle (3) drives around Utah's Mikael Jantunen (20) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in the first round of the Pac-12 men's tournament Wednesday, March 11, 2020, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

Mikael Jantunen is coming back to the University of Utah a couple of days earlier than expected.

On the heels of Jantunen and the Finnish national team qualifying for EuroBasket 2022 on Friday morning, the Utes sophomore forward will board a United States-bound flight Saturday morning and is expected to arrive in Salt Lake City on Saturday evening.

This, according to Finnish national team assistant coach and former Utes standout forward Hanno Mottola, who told The Salt Lake Tribune on Feb. 13 that, if things broke right for Finland, Jantunen would be on the way back here sooner than expected.

On Friday morning, Jantunen, the Pac-12 leader in field goal percentage at 68.3%, scored 11 points and grabbed four rebounds for Finland in a must-win 92-84 decision over Switzerland in a EuroBasket qualifier out of Group E. Behind that result, longstanding European power Serbia blew out Georgia. Serbia’s win clinched a EuroBasket 2022 spot for Finland, regardless of its result on Sunday in its Group E finale against Georgia.

UTAH AT OREGON

When • Saturday, 7 p.m. MT

TV • Pac-12 Networks

“I hope the people in SLC and Utah fans understand and appreciate how loyal Coach K [Larry Krystkowiak is],” Mottola told The Tribune Friday morning, shortly after the Serbia-Gerogia game went final. “He kept his word to Mickey, and to us, and let him fulfill his dreams of playing for the national and qualifying for the European Championships.”

On a Zoom call with reporters late Friday afternoon, Krystkowiak confirmed Jantunen would be on a flight back to the United States early Saturday morning, but he was unable to clarify what the quarantine situation would be once he returns to Salt Lake City.

When traveling from either Finland or Georgia to the U.S., the CDC is recommending a seven-day quarantine after arrival. Whether or not Utah will adhere to those guidelines is unknown.

After playing at Oregon on Saturday (7 p.m., Pac-12 Networks), the Utes will host UCLA on Thursday and league-leading USC on Feb. 27.

“I don’t know that, those are medical questions that we’re going to address through a bunch of testing both on our and on their end,” said Krystkowiak, referencing the fact the fact that Jantunen has undergone COVID-19 testing while apart of the Finnish national team’s traveling party to Georgia. “We’ll wait to hear on that.”

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