Utah Basketball Gets to Work on Next Year’s Roster

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Jack Gambassi

The U of U Men’s Basketball team during a game vs. the USC Trojans on Feb. 27, 2021 at the Jon M. Huntsman Center on campus. (Photo by Jack Gambassi | Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Ethan Pearce, Assistant Sports Editor

 

The University of Utah men’s basketball team made some huge moves this offseason, upending the entire team and nearly starting from scratch. The move to change coaches resulted in a lot of the players walking away from the team, pursuing other opportunities elsewhere. Larry Krystkowiak was fired following a loss in the Pac-12 Tournament to USC, capping off another season with no NCAA Tournament run. Utah realized it had to rebuild, and with new head coach Craig Smith hitting the recruiting trails and grabbing some nice talent, they’re well on their way.

Pelle Larsson, Riley Battin, Rylan Jones, Branden Carlson, Harrison Creer, Jack Jamele, Lahat Thioune, Eli Ballstaedt and Jaxon Brenchley are all set to return from last year’s team. Larsson, Battin, Jones, and Carlson are the only members of that group who saw consistent rotation minutes under Krystkowiak, so there were a lot of minutes left over for new transfers. 

David Jenkins Jr.

David Jenkins Jr. is a talented scorer with nice shooting touch. He comes to the Utes from UNLV and South Dakota State. In his 2018-19 season with the Jackrabbits, he averaged nearly 20 points per game on over 45% shooting from the three point line. Utah was down some shooting and scoring after some of the transfers left, meaning Jenkins will have a large role to fill on this team.

Marco Anthony and Rollie Worster

Marco Anthony and Rollie Worster are both guards who followed their head coach from Utah State to the Utes.

Anthony is a senior who played two years at Virginia before transferring for one season with the Aggies. He sat out 2019-20 due to transfer rules. He had his breakout season last year for Utah State, averaging 10 points a night on 41.5% shooting from the floor. He started every game he played in for the Aggies and brings some leadership experience along with knowledge of Smith’s coaching style.

Worster is a sophomore who showed flashes in his freshman season at Utah State. Averaging over nine points on 40.6% shooting from the field was solid for a freshman, and Smith likely saw something in him that he’d like to continue to work on at Utah. He is poised for a breakout season.

Gabe Madsen

Gabe Madsen transfers from Cincinnati after a shortened freshman season. He only played two collegiate games and saw limited minutes in each. He then opted out of the season on Dec. 31, 2020, and did not play the rest of the way. Madsen committed to transfer to Utah where he will play out his sophomore year. He averaged 26.1 points per game in high school while shooting 41.7% from three on his way to earning a three star recruiting ranking. This season will be his chance to prove what he can do at the collegiate level after having a rough freshman year.

Staff

Smith rounds out his staff by hiring three new assistants: DeMarlo Slocum, Eric Peterson, and Tim Morris. Slocum, who previously coached at Utah from 2011-19, returns after two seasons as an assistant at UNLV. Jenkins Jr. played there under Slocum, so the two are familiar. Peterson is a longtime assistant to Smith, working with him at Utah State and South Dakota. He continues this successful partnership with the Utes. Morris played college basketball at Stanford before beginning his coaching career. He has been Director of Player Development at Nevada, an assistant at Alabama, and spent the past two years at Cincinnati, where he coached Madsen. 

It’s been a tough offseason for Utah basketball, losing program cornerstones such as Timmy Allen, Mikael Jantunen, Alfonso Plummer, and Ian Martinez, among others. Next season’s roster is not quite finished yet, but they have a good start on replacing some of what they lost.

 

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