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Utah basketball: Utes in better shape as season nears

Published: Saturday, Oct. 19 2013 10:50 p.m. MDT

Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak, left, and player Jordan Loveridge answer questions during the Pac-12 NCAA college basketball media day, Thursday, Oct. 17, 2013, in San Francisco.

Marcio Jose Sanchez, AP

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SALT LAKE CITY — The goal isn’t to have everyone be exactly the same weight this year, but that’s almost the way it looks at the University of Utah, where the bigger guys are losing weight and the smaller guys are gaining weight.

Inside players Jordan Loveridge, Renan Lenz and Marko Kovacevic have each lost about 20 pounds each, while guards Brandon Taylor and Parker Van Dyke have each gained about 15 pounds.

“We’ve had some losers and some gainers,’’ said coach Larry Krystkowiak. “Parker Van Dyke has gained 15 pounds and looks like a completely different player. That’s a completely different body than we saw in May.”

Krystkowiak said weight numbers aren’t as important as what kind of shape players are in.

“Renan and Marko are both in really good shape,’’ he said. “They had some bad weight, a lot higher fat content. You can be misled by weight, but the guys who have lost weight lost fat. They can move up and down the floor a lot better.

As for the 6-foot-6 Loveridge, he looks much sleeker than a year ago when he bulked up to be able to play the power forward spot for Utah. Krystkowiak said he can still play the “4” spot, but is better suited to the small forward spot.

“Loveridge is at a good weight, he hasn’t gotten any weaker, he’s just as strong as he was last year when he beefed up to be a 4-man for us,’’ he said. “He’s getting up and down a heckuva lot better without that 20 pounds. At the end of the day, he’s a real similar player to how he was last year, only lighter and able to move a little better.’’

SO FAR, SO GOOD — The Utes got started earlier than usual this year thanks to the NCAA changes, in which all teams are allowed 30 practices in 42 days, beginning in late September rather than starting in mid-October.

“We’re having really good spirited, competitive practices and guys are working their tails off,’’ said Krystkowiak. “The skill level is higher and talent is higher this year. It’s been good.”

Krystkowiak expects the lineup to start coming together in the next week or so, but he praised the play of 6-foot-5 JC guard Delon Wright, who can play both guard positions, and another 6-foot-5 JC player, Princeton Onwas.

“Princeton Onwas has given us a lot of spark with his athletic ability, done a good job of guarding and giving us an explosive element around the rim that we haven’t had in the past,’’ he said. “He’s a slasher. He was at a great junior college program for a couple of years, so it wasn’t like he had a lot of learning to do. Has some reps under his belt and maybe has an advantage over some of our freshmen.’’

As for Wright, the coach said, “He can score it, he’s one of those guys, he makes really good decisions with the ball, he’s a good playmaker with the ball in his hands. He’s one of those guys who doesn’t do anything great maybe, but by the time the game’s over, he might have 14 points, seven assists and seven rebounds and some deflections and steals. He’s just a real solid basketball player.’’

Wright is expected to start on the guard line with Brandon Taylor, while Onwas will be in the mix at small forward with Loveridge and Dakari Tucker and can also play big guard.

UTE NOTES: The Utes will have their annual “Night with the Runnin’ Utes on Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the Huntsman Center. Besides a first look at the Utes in a shortened scrimmage, fans will have the chance to get autographs immediately afterward. … The first exhibition game will be Nov. 1 against Saint Martins at 7:30 p.m. at the Huntsman Center. The regular season opens a week later against Evergreen State in a 6 p.m. game. … Big men Marko Kovacevic and Dallin Bachynski have both been slowed by injuries this fall. Kovacevic, a 6-foot-11 inside player from Western Nebraska College, had a broken wrist that will keep him out a month, while Bachynski, a 7-foot junior, has been slowed by a high ankle sprain. … Kovacevic, who hails from Serbia, and Bachynski, who is from Calgary, Canada, are two of four foreign players on the team. The others are Lenz, from Brazil, and freshman Kenneth Ogbe, from Germany.

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