Runnin’ Into the 2019-20 Basketball Season


(Design by Jonny Faeth | Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Brayden Ramsay, Sports Writer


The University of Utah men’s basketball team narrowly missed out on a National Invitation Tournament tournament birth last season with a 17-14 (11-7 Pac-12) record. The Utes were led by seniors Sedrick Barefield, Parker Van Dyke and Novak Topolovic while also getting valuable minutes from freshmen Both Gach, Riley Battin and Timmy Allen. The Utes rounded out the 2018-19 season in third place in the Pac-12 Conference behind Washington and Arizona State. They missed the postseason after losing in the first round of the conference tourney to Oregon.


Offseason News

The Utes had some unfortunate news circulate in the offseason after recruiting violations surfaced in August. The school self-reported the infractions and received a two-year postseason ban alongside a coach being suspended for a week and a $5000 fine.


Coach Larry Krystkowiak

Coach Krystkowiak is entering his ninth season as the head coach of the Runnin’ Utes men’s basketball team. During his tenure at the university, Krystkowiak has led his teams to a combined 155-111 (76-68) and has not finished lower than fourth place in the Pac-12 since 2013.

University of Utah head coach Larry Krystkowiak yells at his players during an NCAA college basketball game vs. BYU at the Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah on Saturday, Dec. 8, 2018. (Photo by Kiffer Creveling | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

While at Utah, Krystkowiak has helped three players — Delon Wright, Jakob Poeltl and Kyle Kuzma — get drafted into the NBA. He was also the only coach in the Pac-12 to have three players taken in the first round in those three seasons.

In the past six seasons, Krystkowiak has led the Utes to postseason play in five of those years, the only exception being in 2018.


New Coaching Additions

Utah has added two new additions to the staff for the 2019 season.

First is Henry Martinez, who was the director and head coach at the ProBasket Academy in Costa Rica. Martinez also had stints on the Costa Rica National Team, giving him playing experience at a professional level. He has also coached at a professional level winning three national championships with Heredia CCDR in the FECOBA Tournament. Martinez will be an assistant coach on this season’s team.

Donny Daniels also returns to the U after spending the last nine seasons as an assistant coach for the Gonzaga Bulldogs. Daniels was an assistant coach for Rick Majerus for 10 seasons before moving on to coach at his alma mater, the Cal State Fullerton Titans. Daniels will be a director of player development on this year’s team.


New Additions to Keep Your Eye On

Rylan Jones is a four-star point guard out of Olympus High School who also had his name among the top 25 point guards in the country out of high school. He led Olympus to an undefeated season and a state championship his senior year. Jones was named Utah’s Gatorade Player of the Year and Mr. Basketball in 2018.

Matt Van Komen is a 7-foot, 4-inch shot-blocker from Pleasant Grove. He was rated as the No. 2 prospect coming out of the state of Utah in 2018 by ESPN while also being named among the top 20 centers in the nation. Van Komen turned down the likes of Baylor, Utah State and Gonzaga in his journey to become a Runnin’ Ute.

Alfonso Plummer is a junior transfer from Fajardo, Puerto Rico by way of Arizona Western College. Plummer led Arizona Western to a regional championship and a trip to the NJCAA Tournament in 2018. He was an NJCAA Division I All-American and was named to the ACCAC first-team all-conference and first-team all-region.

Mikael Jantunen was the No. 1 prospect to come out of Finland in 2018. He was a part of the Helsinki Basketball Academy. The 6-foot, 8-inch freshman should see a lot of early playing time as he was one of the standouts at the Red-White game.


Utah Players to Watch Out For

Both Gach started in 14 games as a freshman, averaging seven points per game alongside having an 85% free throw percentage. Gach also averaged two rebounds and two assists per game in 2018. Gach is a solid player on both ends of the floor, getting his guys open on offense and forcing opposing players into tough situations on defense.

University of Utah freshman forward Both Gach (11) attempts a layup during an NCAA Basketball game vs. Northern Arizona University at the Jon M. Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City, Utah on Friday, Dec. 21, 2018. (Photo by Kiffer Creveling | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

Riley Battin averaged six points and started in 21 games his freshman season. He also averaged three rebounds and one assist per game. Battin showed spurts of great play in 2018 and is looking to solidify himself as one of the top players on the team in 2019.

Timmy Allen was only the second Utah player to be named to the Pac-12 All-Freshman Team while also being named to the Preseason All-Pac-12 second team for the 2019 season. Last year, Allen averaged 12 points a game alongside five rebounds and two assists per game.


Opposing Players to Watch Out For

McKinley Wright (Colorado): Wright is Colorado’s leader in points and assists and is likely to become the next player to reach the 1,000 point mark for the Buffs. During his time as a Buffalo, Wright has reached double figures in all but 11 games he’s played in.

Nico Mannion (Arizona): Mannion is a freshman out of Pinnacle High School in Arizona and was a McDonald’s All-American. He was touted as one of the top prospects in his class. If his last name sounds familiar, that’s because his dad is former Ute Pace Mannion. Mannion might not have any collegiate playing time as of yet, but expect big things out of him this season.

Remy Martin (Arizona State): Martin is on the Bob Cousy Award preseason list for point guard of the year heading into the 2019 season. Martin showed promise as a freshman, earning All-Pac-12 Sixth Man of the Year before coming to life in 2018 and earning second-team All-Pac-12 honors.

Tres Tinkle (Oregon State): Tinkle, also known as the coach’s kid, averaged just over 20 points and eight rebounds in his 30 appearances in 2019. Tinkle was named to the National Association of Basketball Coaches District 20 first team alongside the USBWA All-District IX Team, All-Pac-12 First Team and preseason watch list for the Julius Erving Small Forward of the Year Award.

Payton Pritchard (Oregon): Pritchard, who gave the Utes a run in the Pac-12 Tournament last season, ranks second in Ducks history with 164 steals and fourth in Ducks history in assists with 487. He was also named the Pac-12 Tournament Most Outstanding Player while also leading the nation in total minutes played in 2018.

Nick Rakocevic (USC): Rakocevic will be looking to pass the 1,000 point mark in his career in 2019 as he enters the season a mere 35 points away from the feat. Last season, Rakocevic averaged 15 points and nine rebounds while on the floor for the Trojans. He also earned himself an All-Pac-12 honorable mention spot in 2018.

Prince Ali (UCLA): Ali is a standout senior for the Bruins who started in 26 games in 2018. He will be returning to the floor in 2019 after a foot injury kept him out of the teams final seven games of the season. Ali shot 42% from the field last year and had two games where he scored over 20 points.

Paris Austin (Cal): Austin started in 29 games for the Golden Bears in 2018, averaging 11 points, three rebounds and four assists per game. Austin scored over 20 points in three outings last year and looks to continue to be Cal’s go-to man in 2019.

Daejon Davis (Stanford): Davis was named onto the Pac-12 All-Freshman Team in 2017 and currently ranks in the top 20 in school history with 274 career assists. Davis started in all but one game last season and averaged 11 points and four assists in 2018. Last season, Davis totaled 17 double-digit scoring games and one double-digit rebounding game.

Nahziah Carter (Washington): Carter is a consistent go-to for the Huskies. The guard saw playing time in every game Washington played last season. He posted 15 double-digit scoring efforts, including two in the NCAA tournament in 2019. Carter is also known for his defense, registering 12 blocks last season.

CJ Elleby (Washington State): Elleby was one of the few bright spots on the Cougars last season. He averaged 14 points and seven rebounds as a freshman in 2019. Elleby finished the year playing in all 32 games and ended up second among Pac-12 freshman in scoring and rebounding.


Important Games

Nevada (Nov. 5): The Wolfpack will be the Utes’ first true test of the season. Utah will travel to Reno for their second game of the year. Last season, the Utes lost to No. 6-ranked Nevada at home 71-86.

BYU (Dec. 4): The rivalry game between the Utes and the Cougars will be played in Salt Lake City for the first time in three seasons. This game always has high intensity and the series has been split 2-2 in the last four matchups.

Kentucky (Dec. 18): The Wildcats have always been a thorn in Utah’s side ever since the Utes lost in the National Championship Game in 1998. The Utes will take on the Wildcats at a neutral site in Las Vegas to try and change their luck this season. The last time these two played, the No. 18-ranked Kentucky Wildcats beat the Utes 88-61.

University of Utah freshman forward Timmy Allen (20) takes a shot over University of Washington sophomore forward Hameir Wright (13) during an NCAA Basketball game at the Jon M. Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City, Utah on Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019. (Photo by Kiffer Creveling | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

Washington (Jan. 23): The Huskies are coming off a Pac-12 Championship season, going 15-3 in conference play in 2019. The Utes are 2-2 in the last four matchups against Washington.

UCLA (Feb. 2): Last year, the Utes made a miraculous comeback at the Pauley Pavilion. Parker Van Dyke hit a game-winning 3-pointer to seal the victory at the buzzer. The Bruins will remember this, and the game is setting up to be a good one between the two squads. Utah is 3-1 in the last four matchups against the Bruins, with the last game ending in a 92-81 Utah victory.

USC (Feb. 23): The Utes and Trojans have exchanged blows over the last two seasons, going 2-2 in their last four match-ups. When this game comes around, the season will be winding down, and these two teams will push each other in what should be a close game.



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