SALT LAKE CITY — Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak has an apt description when it comes to his team’s five seniors.
“Everyone’s got their own story,” he said as the players prepare for their final game in the Huntsman Center. They’ll close out their home careers Saturday against 19th-ranked Oregon (Pac-12 Network, 12:30 p.m.).
“It’s an important thing,” Krystkowiak noted. “It’s kind of a culmination with each of those guys.”
The senior class, who will receive framed jerseys and photos in a pregame ceremony, represents quite a cross section. It includes the program’s career blocks leader (Dave Foster), the 35th player in team history to score 1,000 points (Jason Washburn), this season’s top scorer (Jarred DuBois), one of the Pac-12’s best defenders (Cedric Martin), and a determined walk-on (Ryan Osterloh).
“You want all those kids to do well, but you still have to kind of approach the game the same way,” said Krystkowiak, who noted that it’s fitting that the seniors emulate the bullet points the Utes are seeking for next week’s Pac-12 Tournament in Las Vegas. He’s implored his team to play their tails off, make simple plays and be solid fundamentally.
“I don’t think we want to blow it up and put any pressure on any of our seniors to have an extraordinary type of performance,” Krystkowiak added.
The players understand that it’s all about the team at this point. Utah can secure the 10th-seed in the conference tourney with a win over the Ducks. A Washington State loss to USC would also clinch it.
Washburn made it clear after Thursday’s 72-61 win over Oregon State, however, that the first scenario is preferable. The Utes want to get it done on the court with what would be the program’s first back-to-back Pac-12 victories.
Although he acknowledged that getting it done on Senior Night would be like a “cherry on top,” Washburn said such an accomplishment would be for the team, their coach and the program.
The seniors, though, will be in the spotlight as fans, family and friends pay tribute to them.
The graduate student didn’t get a “Senior Night” at Loyola Marymount. He left the Lions for Utah after three seasons and 96 games, earning a degree in communications before switching schools.
“It’s been a good run I think for Jarred,” Krystkowiak said. “He’s made progress. He’s been great in our community and provided us with a little bit of skill in the backcourt.”
DuBois, who ranks among the top 25 career leaders in several statistical catagories at LMU, made a smooth transition to the Pac-12 — topping the Utes in overall scoring (12.1 points per game) and assists (3.0).
With his one and only season at Utah heading toward a finish, the 6-foot-3 guard from Inglewood, Calif., isn’t taking time to reflect on the experience. He’s not finished yet.
“It’s definitely been a good ride,” DuBois said. “Hopefully we can finish it the right way.”
DuBois, who has spearheaded a program to help feed the homeless in Salt Lake City, considers the opportunity to play for Utah as “a blessing.”
The 7-foot-3 center from Lake Forest, Calif., is regaining full health after being sidelined with a foot injury the past two seasons. He left his mark, however. Foster tops the Utah record book for most blocked shots in a career (219), a season (115) and a game (10).
“To not have him for a while has been frustrating for all of us,” Krystkowiak said. “I know he may want to try to pursue playing some more and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that he can get healthy and do that.”
Even though Krystkowiak hasn’t had the opportunity to coach Foster a whole lot, he credits the senior for providing the team with a lot of leadership off the court.
As his college career draws to a close, Foster’s emotions center around wishing he could play.
“Straight up, I wish I could be out there helping the guys out — especially against a power team like Oregon,” he said. “And to just to give the fans one more shout out. I think that’s the main emotion.”
Foster appeared in 80 games for the Utes before not being able to play the past two seasons. Despite the injury trouble, he has no regrets.
“That’s how I’ve tried to just live my life,” Foster said. “Because the pain of regret weighs a lot more than the pain of discipline and that’s what I’ve tried to live by.”
The experiences, both good and bad, are things he plans to apply in his life in the future.
Krystkowiak considers the 6-foot-4 junior college transfer from Minneapolis as one of the better defensive players in the Pac-12.
“He’s been unbelievably focused in what he’s doing,” Krystkowiak said. “He takes a lot of pride in playing defense and is just a warrior.”
Martin, he continued, doesn’t get a lot of accolades for scoring points and other things. Even so, there’s a place for a player like him. Martin has been in the starting line-up in 55 of the 57 games he has played at Utah over the past two seasons.
“He’s a guy that I think every team needs to have,” Krystkowiak said. “It’s been a fun run with him for a couple of years.”
The soft-spoken Martin has a team-oriented approach to the game. He wants to finish the season off with a bang and get the program positioned for more success next season. Even so, he admits he may live it up a little in his final home game — perhaps.
“I might tear up a little bit, but nah. If anything, the main thing that I’m focused on is getting a win,” Martin said. “I really don’t care about it being my last game here. I just want to finish out the season strong. That’s what I came here for. I didn’t come here for one little night, one little senior night.”
The former Skyline High star, who earned 5A all-state honors in 2009, walked on midway through last season after earning a degree from Salt Lake Community College. He’s a business administration major at Utah.
Osterloh has seen limited action with the Utes, scoring just two points. However, the 6-foot-3, 188-pound guard has worked his way into some playing time in recent weeks.
“He’s been great,” said Krystkowiak, who added that Osterloh is a terrific kid, student and person. “It’s not easy being a walk-on with all the things you ask him to do. ... It’s been fun being around him.”
As his college basketball experience draws to a close, Osterloh noted that it’s been an enjoyable journey.
“It’s been fun,” he said. “So it’ll be interesting to see it come to an end.”
Resiliency has paid off for the lone active holdover from the Jim Boylen era. The 6-foot-10 center from Battle Creek, Mich., became just the 35th player in Utah history to reach the 1,000-point milestone in his career. He reached the mark in Thursday night’s win over Oregon State.
The animated, vocal leader of the Utes expects his final home game to be emotional.
“Everyone knows my love and passion for this place and all the hell I’ve went through,” said Washburn, who had 55 teammates and two coaching staffs in his tenure at Utah. “Between the 1,000-points this weekend and being here one last time it’ll almost feel like something good came out of my perseverance. I always told myself if I stuck around there would be.”
Krystkowiak praises Washburn for being cut of the right stuff and for trying to do the right things.
“I think Jason’s made some great strides with his game,” he said, while expressing a desire to have Washburn finish off on a high note Saturday.
The Oregon game will be his 120th with the Utes. Saying goodbye won’t be easy, he admits, after five years in the program.
“I don’t want to talk about that,” Washburn said. “That’s just not something I’m ready to comprehend until I absolutely have to face it.”
The all-conference candidate leads the Utes in scoring (13.1 ppg) and rebounding (7.9 rpg) in Pac-12 play.
Utes on the air
No. 19 Oregon (23-7, 12-5) at Utah (12-17, 4-13)6 comments on this story
Saturday, 12:30 p.m.
TV: Pac-12 Networks
Radio: ESPN 700AM