Eastern Washington University
SALT LAKE CITY — The University of Utah's initial basketball remodeling project is complete. With the addition of seven signees, new head coach Larry Krystkowiak and his staff have filled the Utes' 13 scholarship slots for 2011-12.
The newcomers will join four returnees from last season — David Foster, Chris Hines, Jason Washburn and Josh Watkins — plus two others with ties from the Jim Boylen era (early signee George Matthews and returning LDS Church missionary Josh Sharp) in leading Utah into its inaugural season in the Pac-12.
They'll be meshed with Krystkowiak's first recruiting class, which includes junior college transfers Javon Dawson, Dijon Farr and Cedric Martin, as well as high school signees Anthony Odunsi and Kareem Storey. Glen Dean of Eastern Washington and Aaron Dotson of LSU will practice with the Utes this season, but won't be able to play games until 2012-13 because of NCAA transfer rules.
"If you would have told me that we could have got involved with some of these guys this late in the game," Krystkowiak said, "I wouldn't have really thought it possible. So we got fortunate."
The Utes, Krystkowiak noted, added guys who signed with the program for all the right reasons.
"We want guys here that want to be here because of the whole situation," he said while pointing out such things as the city, the Pac-12, the Huntsman Center and the program's tradition.
Many of Boylen's players, however, decided to explore their options after the coaching change. Leading scorer and rebounder Will Clyburn transferred to Iowa State, while others like J.J. O'Brien and Shawn Glover received releases but have yet to commit elsewhere. Redshirt freshman Dominique Lee is in the process of doing so.
They're all out of the program now, as is Chris Kupets, Antonio DiMaria and Preston Guiot.
"We kind of just got to the point where we couldn't wait any longer," said Krystkowiak, who noted that some things dragged out into finals week and decisions had to be made — especially after a month of getting familiar with the players on the court and in the weight room.
Some of the guys, he explained, couldn't say Utah is where they wanted to stay after weeks of reflection.
"We kind of made that assumption that they were looking elsewhere," Krystkowiak said. "We kind of helped them make their decision."
Krystkowiak used an analogy of being in a relationship.
"If you want to be in a committed relationship and you want 100 percent from somebody, you can't say I'd like to break up here temporarily and go see if you can find something that's better and if I can't, then maybe can I come back," he explained. "At some point that novelty kind of wears off for us and we're ready to move forward, wish everybody well and get going in that direction."
Krystkowiak isn't surprised that Foster, Hines, Washburn and Watkins opted to stay. He knew they were guys that were in Utah's foxhole from the first meeting.
"You could see it in those guys' eyes," Krystkowiak said. "They were ready to be part of it."
Foster and Watkins are the lone seniors on next season's team, while Hines and Washburn will be juniors. The four holdovers give the new coaching staff a solid foundation to build upon.
"I don't want kids here because I told them what they wanted to hear," Krystkowiak said. "That's not an indictment on coach Boylen. I want to be part of why they're here, but not 90 percent of why they're here."
Krystkowiak has rolled out the red carpet when it comes to recruiting prospective and/or returning missionaries to the program. They're completely welcome.
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