Branden Carlson passes legendary Runnin’ Ute on the all-time scoring list

Carlson is now seventh all-time, passing Jeff Judkins.

(Bethany Baker | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Utes center Branden Carlson (35) defends against Stanford Cardinal forward Brandon Angel (23) at Jon M. Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024.

Branden Carlson confidently nodded his head and smirked as he said it felt “damn good” to put up 30 points and 10 rebounds on Senior Night in Utah’s win over Cal over the weekend.

But as he started to talk about what his five years with the Runnin’ Utes have meant to him, his confident demeanor melted and he let some vulnerability show.

“I’ve loved this program and my time here,” Carlson said while holding back tears. Cole Bajema patted him on the back and Gabe Madsen clapped in support as he paused to collect himself.

“Just being able to get another win with this team and knowing that we still have something to go and accomplish is all I can ask for,” Carlson continued. “I’m so thankful for the fans, the coaches and everyone who’s been a part of this journey. It’s going to be a tough adjustment leaving here after this year.”

Carlson is a Utah native. He grew up in South Jordan and played high school basketball at Bingham. Coach Craig Smith said Carlson’s performance Saturday was indicative of his local ties.

“He just had that look tonight,” Smith said. “You could see it. It’s Senior Night. It’s his last game at the Huntsman. It means something to him.”

Saturday was Carlson’s third 30-point game of the season. No Runnin’ Ute has scored at least 30 in that many games since Keith Van Horn did it five times in the 1996-97 season.

“Any time you do something like that and your name is in the same sentence as Van Horn, I think that says a lot,” Smith said.

Carlson also moved up in Utah’s all-time scoring list, passing Jeff Judkins (1,740 points) and claiming the seventh spot with 1,746 points to date. Judkins is currently an assistant coach with Utah women’s basketball after spending more than two decades as head coach of BYU.

“Branden is a very consistent player and scores in many different ways from inside and outside,” Judkins told The Salt Lake Tribune. “Hard worker and very durable and coachable. One of the nicest guys and a team player. You always know someone will pass you. Congratulations to him for a great career.”

Carlson is 55 points away from passing Luther Burden (1,790) for sixth on the all-time scoring list. He’s also first all-time in games played (138) and blocks (232), fifth in defensive rebounds (589), and eighth in field goals made (676) and offensive rebounds (213).