Utah Utes basketball: Larry Krystkowiak says Utes will adapt to tighter officiating
, Kristin Murphy, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — Anyone who saw Utah’s exhibition game against Saint Martin’s last week got a taste of what is in store for college basketball this year, at least early in the year.
With new directives for officials to call more fouls for hand and body contact, there will be a lot more free throws until players learn not to play as physical as they have in the past.
In last week’s game, 56 fouls were whistled resulting in 69 free throws being attempted. To put it in context, last year, Utah’s games had an average of 31 fouls and 33 free throws.
Coach Larry Krystkowiak is fine with the new emphasis on calling fouls, and says his team will just have to adapt.
“It’s going to be learning how to guard with far less contact,’’ he said. “My personal opinion is we’re going to have some games where it’s (a lot of) free throws and it’s going to disrupt the game a little bit. There may be the growing pains for players having to sit on the bench, fans having to watch a game that doesn’t have as much flow to it. But then I think the players are going to wise up and they don’t want to sit in foul trouble.’’
Krystkowiak said when he played, the Big Sky Conference was one of two leagues that first used the 3-point shot before it became a college rule and said players and coaches had to make adjustments.
“It doesn’t take long,’’ he said. “It’s a talking point right now, but hopefully at the end of the day, it’s going to benefit our game.’’
FREE THROWS: If there are going to be a lot more free throws, especially early in the season, the Utes will have to do a lot better than last Friday when they missed 21 free throws and were an abysmal 53 percent for the game on 24 of 45 attempts.
However, Krystkowiak isn’t too concerned about his team’s ability at the line.
He had his players come in on their own the following day and shoot 100 free throws each and had managers and others document the makes and misses.
“We shot 87 percent, of course, when the popcorn wasn’t popping,’’ he said.
The Ute coach pointed out that seven misses on Friday were by freshman Kenneth Ogbe, who was playing in front of the biggest crowd of his life and that when players start missing, it sometimes becomes “contagious.’’
“Actually from a coaching percentage I’m not concerned about the free throws,’’ he said. “Our team was first in the Pac-12 in free throws last year (75.5 percent). I know we’ve got good shooters. To me it’s something that’s easily fixed. It’s not broken.’’
REDSHIRTS: Over the years, some of Utah’s top players were redshirts in their first years on the team, including the likes of Nick Jacobson and Jason Washburn.
With six new scholarship players at Utah, including three freshmen, there’s a chance at least one of the players will redshirt this season.
With just a couple of days until the season opener, Krystkowiak said he still doesn’t know if he’ll redshirt anyone and who it might be.
The most likely candidates are the three freshmen, Parker Van Dyke, a 6-foot-3 guard out of East High School, Ahmad Fields, a 6-5 guard from Washington, D.C., and Ogbe, a 6-6 guard out of Germany.
“With our numbers this year, we probably will have a player that’s going to redshirt,’’ Krystkowiak said. “This is not a decision strictly for the coaching staff. It’s got to be right for the player. I want to be able to visit with him and his family before we do that.’’
Krystkowiak also said it not a negative for a player to be redshirted his first season.
“It’s important to remember when a coach redshirts a kid, that’s a commitment to the future. He wants you to be around in the fourth and fifth year of the program,’’ he said. “I’ve been involved with redshirts where it’s been a real difficult year, but I’ve also seen those kids, where at the end of their career they wouldn’t change a thing in terms of really taking advantage of that year and making progress in the program.’’
UTE NOTES: Friday night’s home opener against Evergreen State begins at 6 p.m. and will be followed by the Utah women’s team’s home opener. The Utes will play the first four Fridays of the month, counting the exhibition game. The Utes have three non-scholarship players on this year’s team — Connor Van Brocklin, a 6-foot-5 guard out of Davis High and Snow College, Xan Ricketts, a 6-foot-7 forward from Brighton High, and Austin Eastman, a 6-foot-3 guard from Billings, Mont.
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