I wrote this a week ago or so to some buddies who occassionally come here...it summarizes my thoughts on the topic.
Posted By: UtahFanSir
Date: Friday 15 March 2019, at 10:47 am
Recommended by 2 user(s)
A casual read on either UF.N or UteHub will reveal deep-seated, wide discontent over the basketball program. More on that in a moment. I’ve enjoyed the second half of the season, and look forward to watching the games. The team is young, filled with very good kids, who, assuming they hang with Utah, could allow the program to ascend to levels we’ve missed and have been dreaming about. I agree that this squad has overachieved and offer a shout out for your faith in the program, including its controversial salaried head coach, K3. In any assessment, of K3’s nines seasons, we cannot overlook that Utah made good runs in the NCAA in 2015 and 2016, and made the NIT in 2014, 2017 and the final in 2018.
To state the obvious, Utah has out performed for the last five to seven years relative to where the so-called experts placed the team in the pre-season. Save for a deep run into the NIT, however, Utah has not returned to the glory days we all remember so well. I don’t know if my expectations are just unrealistic, but such so-called out performing, while terrific, does not slake my thirst for better. And better is not an unreasonable or unrealistic expectation, in my opinion. The program has its defenders and folks who believe real change is needed now. I like what I see emerging so I will be patient…
Yet in my view, there is an issue, and it is hidden in plain sight. I agree with the assessment that player turnover has seriously disrupted continuity in the program. Since the recent sweet period that included transfer Delon Wright, short-timer Jakob Poeltl, transfer Justin Bibbins, short-timer Kyle Kuzma, transfer Tyler Rawson, recruiting has not been able to refill the talent basket to the same level. Taken as a whole looking back a good decade, recruiting has been a glaring issue. Sure, K3 & staff have had good players, Jordan Loveridge, Dakari Tucker, Brandon Taylor, and Parker Van Dyke. But if you look at the number of kids who signed but left early or did not pan out in one way or another, it’s a shocking number. Looking at just recent history, that group includes Brekkott Chapman, Chris Reyes, Isaiah Wright, Makol Mawien, Devon Daniels, JoJo Zamora (edit), Chris Seeley, just to name a notable few.
The last consistent Utah recruiting class was maybe in the 2012 - 2013 period in my opinion. The 2011 class, K3’s first, was not a good one, packed with JC guys who did not make Utah great, while he was rushed to have anyone commit. In fact, look at the guys back a full decade, to 2008 in the Boylen period, most of those recruits reflect the issues I am taking about. The last five or six years have oscillated from good to disaster. But to my way of looking at it, one decent player per year who is willing to stay for four years does not make a good recruiting class. Of the seven recruits for 2016, only Jace Johnson remains. Of the five in the 2017 class, two are gone already, two are missionaries who have yet to set foot on the hardwood, and Donnie Tillman who is the only contributor. And Donnie has not developed this year as I expected, in and out of starting, but lately he is finally looking quite good. The 2018 class is simply awesome. The 2019 has a lot of potential, while Van Komen looks like a project. My prayer is that Donnie Tillman and the fabulous freshman stay with the program. Those guys are why I like what I see emerging.
Each year in the last five say, the “out performed” years, K3 & staff have needed the first half of the season to forge a true team out the ‘parts’ they assembled. That goes to the issue some of you raised, consistency. I know its not the 1980s or 1990s and now Utah is in the Pac-12, but great programs – of which Utah is one – have found ways to keep the momentum going. Why not Utah, particularly now that it has a Pac-12 nameplate? The two post-Majerus coaches were a disaster who set the program back, even as they had their share of NCAA appearances. The set back was mostly in recruiting. K3 & staff at least are a stable part of the program and for that I am grateful. Chris Hill did not allow those prior two coaches to recruit on the AAU circuit, to the team’s detriment. Not so with K3: and it is amazing that Utah has been able to hang on to its assistant coaches…while honestly I don’t know enough about basketball coaching to know if that is a good thing or not. So while I fully appreciate that lots has changed in how recruiting is done (e.g., Arizona), how many kids are one and done, I still think Utah’s out performing from the bottom of the conference standing to in the top four is not to be celebrated too hard. I expect more from Utah’s coaches and given how much the position pays, viz. K3, we should not expect less.
I’ve offered some observations on K3. He’s tough in a way that not all kids appreciate. I can’t help but wonder if when the recruits get together with players, and have a chance to ask about K3, that what the players say effectively drives recruits into the arms of other programs. We've discussed this prior and to be sure, we don't know. That established, I have been surprised at how public K3 can be in critiquing his players, less so now than a few years ago. That means he is not “protecting” them, as it were. Anyway, that may not be it at all, but like many I am searching for answers.
Utah had some phenomenal games over the last little bit. PVD’s three at UCLA will forever stand as a peak moment in Utah basketball comebacks. Now with a firm 3-seed in the Pac-12 tournament Utah is likely to face Oregon. I remember a few years ago, when Utah lost to Oregon twice during the regular season, had a first round bye, and had to face Oregon, I was sure Utah would win. No. My fear for this year is the same. For some reason, Dana Altman has K3’s number. Utah does not match up that well with Oregon’s length, speed and inside game. JJ has been playing better as of late, while he still can't buy a free throw, and is questionable for the game. Hope springs eternal, Utah by 5! (Edit: written a week ago).
If Utah is bounced in its first game, I wonder if the Utes make the NIT. I think it may be a stretch; their resume is not that great in a down year for the conference. I hate to see the season end so soon. The players need the development, and the exposure helps in recruiting.
Edit: I think the Utes get an NIT bid.
Here is part of a follow-up email to my buds...
Here is evidence that K3 is still looking at least for SG - PGs:
One of four natives from Montana at North Idaho.
ESPN still shows unsigned Top 100 recruit Harlond Beverly, from Detroit, as another Utah target. And there is another guard from Nevada who Utah is looking over.
If Utah RSs one or two of the incoming players, which I think is likely, does that count against scholarships? Maybe Van Komen plays if Utah were deeper at center, while a healthy Lahat Thioune and a few minutes from Brandon Morley may allow him to RS. Take a look at the writeup on Van Komen’s last HS game: American Fork Beats.... He was marginalized by effective defense. The center for the opposing HS team, in that state championship game mind you, is once Utah recruit but Oregon-bound Isaac Johnson. But get 40 pounds on Van Komen’s frame and improve his footwork, the kid will be a load (even as the college game is moving away from super tall centers).
Maybe the coaching staff feels differently now, but Charles Jones, II may be a candidate to transfer. He did not take to Pac-12 play, defense mostly but also turnovers, and what was advertised as a great shooter was only okay for Utah. The kid's enthusiasm is infectious, and he was clutch in a few games late in conference. But I can see him moving on, while I have mixed feelings about that due to its disruption in consistency. That said, ever since Andre Miller, I have an immense appreciation for what a very good PG does for a BB team.
Already Christian Popoola and Vante Hendrix have transferred, both late last year. Lightly recruited 3* G Naseem Gaskin from last year’s class, took a RS, which he needed to further develop. Lahat Thioune from Senegal, another 3* from the last class, had some foot injuries and took a RS. Thioune could be quite good. The squad has like five underclassmen walk-ons too, including Morley and Rydalch, both of whom has seen the floor.
Anyway, I don’t think K3 is finished with recruiting.
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