Multiple Transfers Set the Tone for Runnin’ Utes Offseason Outlook

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Jack Gambassi

Utah basketball’s Both Gach (#2) puts an arm over the shoulder of teammate Lazar Stefanovic (#20) in the matchup against the UCLA Bruins at the Jon M. Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Jan. 20, 2022. (Photo by Jack Gambassi | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Ethan Pearce, Sports Editor

 

The University of Utah men’s basketball team is in for a busy offseason.

The Utes finished a disappointing season with a loss to Washington in the Pac-12 Tournament after entering as the conference’s 11 seed. Utah won early in non-conference play, but struggled mightily in their Pac-12 matches on the way to one of the league’s worst records. 

Entering Craig Smith’s second season, the roster will again go through an overhaul. This season’s team was put together via the transfer portal after the majority of the rotation left following Larry Krystkowiak’s departure. Again, Utah will have multiple open roster spots with four Utes in the transfer portal and likely more to follow as the offseason chugs along.

Transfers

So far, we have reports of Riley Battin, David Jenkins Jr., Jack Jamele and Lahat Thioune searching for new schools in the transfer portal. Battin and Thioune entered the portal last year before ultimately deciding to come back, but the expectation is that both will end up leaving this time around.

Jenkins Jr. and Battin both saw their minutes wane as the season went along and will look for new opportunities in their final season of eligibility. 

Thioune played sparingly as the backup big man in his third season with the team. 

Jamele played in just one game with the Utes in 2020-21 and did not appear in a game this season. He will presumably look for a bigger role at a smaller school.

Returning

That leaves 10 returning players pending any more transfers, plus the commitment of Wilguens Exacte Jr.

Guards

Both Gach, Gabe Madsen, Rollie Worster, Jaxon Brenchley, Harrison Creer

Gach will be in his final year of eligibility after an up-and-down 2021-22 campaign. He switched between starting and coming off the bench and saw his minutes fluctuate over the course of the season. Gach will be one of two fifth-year seniors on the squad, and his veteran leadership will be important for a young team.

Madsen and Worster are a solid young guard duo that could end up being Utah’s full-time starting backcourt. Madsen progressed a lot this year and is a legitimately great shooter, finishing the year at over 40% from deep. Worster started basically the entire season as the Utes’ point guard after following Smith from Utah State.

Brenchley played a nice role providing energy off the bench and had some nice moments; he should be back as a solid piece. Creer played sparingly in his second season with the team after not seeing action and Redshirting during his freshman year.

Wings

Marco Anthony, Lazar Stefanovic, Eli Ballstaedt, Bostyn Holt, Exacte Jr.

Anthony confirmed via Instagram that he will return next season for one more year, where he will be the veteran leader and defensive anchor. Anthony came down from Utah State with Smith and will be entrenched as one of Utah’s starting forwards going into his final collegiate season.

Stefanovic became a starter halfway through the season and kept that job the rest of the way. He showed flashes as a true freshman and will be a key part of the Utes’ future plans.

Ballstaedt didn’t play much but had a few nice moments as a shooter and solid defender.

Holt tore his ACL after playing three games. An unfortunate and overlooked loss early on, he will hopefully be a bigger part of the team’s plans in 2022-23.

Exacte Jr. is committed to the Utes next season, listed at 6-foot-5 and 200 pounds. From Montreal, Canada, he has been playing in the NBA Academy Latin America. He should bring some physicality and high potential to the Utes next season.

Bigs

Branden Carlson

Carlson is the only center on the roster following Thioune’s transfer and the departure of Dusan Mahorcic midseason. Smith repeatedly called him Utah’s best player throughout the season, and he will be a featured part of the team going into his senior year. 

Don’t rule out an NBA pursuit for Carlson if he can stay healthy and help the Utes to an improved 2022-23 campaign.

Wrap-Up

Assistant coach Eric Peterson left for the head coaching job at South Dakota, so there may be a spot to fill on Smith’s staff if he chooses. 

Utah currently has four open scholarships to fill, which will likely be worked out relatively soon. College basketball has a frenetic offseason, and that time has now come for the Utes. There will be plenty of moves taking place over the coming months, and it will hopefully end with the team coming back better and stronger in 2022-23.

 

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