SALT LAKE CITY — One of the only players Utah basketball fans will recognize on this year's Ute team is senior Cedric Martin, who joined the team as a junior college transfer a year ago.
The 6-foot-4 Martin was the team's top 3-point shooting threat a year ago, making 49 on the season for 37.1 percent, was second in assists and the third-leading scorer (7.4 ppg) as well as the team's top defender. He is one of two returning players from last year along with senior Jason Washburn, who is in his fifth year in the program.
Martin, a native of Minneapolis, is hoping to be a team leader this year as one of the only veteran players on the team.
"I want to lead by example — to keep playing hard, be someone that guys look up to," he said. "There's no pressure, it's just something I want to do personally. It's not something the coaches told me to do."
Martin said he has been a "quiet" player in the past, but is trying to change that this year. "I still listen, I just need to be more vocal," he said.
Martin was one of only two 3-point shooting threats on last year's team along with departed Chris Hines, but this year he is adding more to his repertoire.
"I feel I'm driving to the basket a lot more," he said. "Last year, you'd just see me standing in the corner, waiting for someone to pass me the ball. Now I come off screens and try to create a play."
Coach Larry Krystkowiak says leaders aren't necessarily the older players on the team, but he hopes Martin can be one of the team's leaders this year. As of now, Martin will probably be a starter because of his defense.
"He's a kid you can put on the other team's best player," Krystkowiak said. "His role hasn't changed at all. He's a warrior and someone I want to have in our foxhole for sure, and he's looking out for the best things on our team. He's my kind of guy."
J.O. IS BACK: Jeremy Olsen was recruited by Jim Boylen back in 2009 and redshirted a year before going on an LDS mission in England. He returned in May, but had to undergo hip surgery and deal with a bulging disc in his back.
Olsen isn't expected to be a starter right away, but will be a big part of the Utes' improved depth on the inside this season. He was the leading scorer in a recent scrimmage with 17 points and feels confident with his scoring, although he says he still needs to work on his defense and his conditioning.
"I feel better every day and am getting back in shape," said Olsen. "I definitely feel confident about my ability to score the basketball, but right now I'm trying to work on my defense."
"It always takes (returned missionaries) longer and it's safe to say it takes bigger guys longer, but he's doing well and making progress every day," said Krystkowiak. "He didn't play much (in Brazil) because of his injuries and was behind coming into training camp, but I'm pleased with what he's doing."
SECRET GAME: The Utes played their first exhibition game Saturday against Montana State at the Huntsman Center, even though nobody knew anything about it.
The Utes have been doing it for several years as one of their two exhibition games allowed by the NCAA. No official stats are kept in these games and no one except for players and coaches are allowed to watch.
Coaches aren't allowed to comment on specifics of the game, although Krystkowiak did express displeasure with his team's rebounding, saying "We've got a long ways to go with that." One of the players acknowledged the Utes didn't win, but said it was an "eye-opener" that would help the team going forward.
One change the Utes made after the "game" was to move freshman Jordan Loveridge to the small forward position, where the Utes are thin after the recent injury to Aaron Dotson. Another reason for moving Loveridge from the 4 to the 3 position is because the Utes are deeper up front with 6-10 Jason Washburn, 7-0 Dallin Bachynski, 6-9 Renan Lenz and the 6-10 Olsen.
Krystkowiak said Loveridge, who is one of the team's top rebounders, will continue to play both forward positions.
UTE NOTES: Friday's exhibition game against Simon Fraser will mark the first-ever meeting between the two schools. The university, located in Vancouver, B.C., has played several games against Utah State and Weber State in past years. … Utah's roster includes a former Simon Fraser player, 6-7 forward Xan Ricketts, who played for Brighton High before playing in 2010-11 at Simon Fraser. … Dotson will miss about a month of practice after suffering a stress fracture in his foot last week. … Krystkowiak said team captains will be named this week before the Friday night exhibition. … The official season-opener is the following Friday against Willamette University, a Division III school located in Salem, Ore.
Copyright 2016, Deseret News Publishing Company