SALT LAKE CITY — If it wasn't for a couple of basketball games, Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak might be spending some time catching up with some old friends this weekend in the Bay Area.
The Utes will play Stanford Thursday night and California Saturday night, in what is likely the toughest road trip in the Pac-12 this season for Utah and other teams.
The two opposing coaches for the Ute games are good friends of Krystkowiak's — Johnny Dawkins at Stanford and Mike Montgomery at Cal.
Krystkowiak is especially close to Montgomery, who was his coach for four years at Montana in the early 1980s. He's known Dawkins since they were rookies for the San Antonio Spurs in 1986-87. Krystkowiak averaged 6.6 points and 3.5 rebounds per game, while Dawkins averaged 10.3 points and 3.6 assists as a part-time starter.
"Those are a couple of guys I respect and care a lot about," Krystkowiak said. "Johnny and I played one season together and had a good time together in San Antonio. Coach Montgomery coached me for four years and I still keep in touch with him."
This week, Krystkowiak will share some pleasantries with the two opposing coaches and it will be all business after that.
SHOOTING WOES: It's been well-documented that this is the worst Utah basketball team record-wise in decades. The Utes' 4-11 record is the worst for a Ute team since 1972-73 when they had the same mark after 15 games on their way to an 8-19 season. The 1935-36 team that finished 7-15, was also 4-11 after 15 games.
Perhaps the main reason for the Utes' lack of success has been the team's poor shooting ability.
Through 15 games, the Utes are shooting just 40.8 percent from the field, 27.1 percent from the 3-point line and 66.5 percent from the free-throw line.
The Utes are ranked 270th in the country in field goal percentage and 229th in free throws. As for 3-point percentage, the Utes aren't ranked because they haven't made the minimum of five treys per game. But only one team among the 274 teams in the 3-point rankings, Rhode Island at 26.9 percent, has a lower percentage than Utah's.
Krystkowiak is well aware of the Utes' shooting woes and rather than lament about the reasons for the poor shooting this year, he said it will be much better next year.
He said two of the players sitting out as redshirts this year, Glen Dean and Aaron Dotson, are good shooters as are several of the players the Utes have already signed, including West Jordan's Jordan Loveridge.
FOSTER STATUS UNCLEAR: Utah's all-time blocked shots leader, 7-foot-3 David Foster, is still coming to practice every day and watching from the sidelines, but he isn't getting close to playing in games for the Utes this year. He still wears a cast on his right foot, which he broke in the opening minutes of Utah's exhibition game on Nov. 4.
Foster and his coaches hoped to have the cast off by now so he could perhaps play the final six weeks of the season.
Even if he gets it off soon, he'll need a few weeks of rehab, which means there won't be many games left for him to play this season.
Earlier this year, Krystkowiak wondered if Foster would return for another year because of the fact that he would be done with school and have a new child in his family. Although he didn't mention it, Krystkowiak also has to be concerned about his scholarship numbers with just a couple of players scheduled to leave after this year and several players already signed for next year.
"You get into a numbers game, but I want to do right by him," Krystkowiak said. "He exemplifies what a student-athlete is all about and if he wants to come back, I'd be all for it."
When asked about it, Foster said he hasn't decided what to do if he's unable to play this year, but said he is open to the idea of coming back next year.
UTE NOTES: Thursday's game with Stanford will be the first between the Utes and Cardinal since the thrilling Sweet 16 matchup between the two teams in 1997 in San Jose, which Utah won 82-77 in overtime. …Josh Watkins ranks fourth in the Pac-12 in scoring at 15.6 ppg and second in assists at 4.9 apg. …Jason Washburn is fourth in the Pac-12 in field goal percentage at 58.3 percent and fifth in rebounding at 6.9 rpg and eighth in free-throw percentage at 78.3 percent. … Utah's next home games are Jan. 19 and 21 against Arizona and Arizona State, respectively.
Copyright 2015, Deseret News Publishing Company