We're closing in on the end of the second season of the Larry Krystkowiak era at the University of Utah. In some ways, this is really the first season because of the mess that the current staff inherited a year ago. As I've written before in this space, there has been progress this season; though not fast enough for some.
The foundation for the next couple of seasons is being set this year by the play of the freshmen. Much was expected of Jordan Loveridge and for most of the season he's delivered the goods. The rest of Loveridge's freshmen mates, however, had very little if any real expectations entering the season. But as we close in on the stretch run, it's those first-year players who are beginning to play bigger roles for this Utah basketball team.
Brandon Taylor, now Utah's starting point guard, is showing exactly what this team has lacked for the last several years at the point, leadership. Returned missionary and redshirt freshman Jeremy Olsen has begun to give the Utes a scoring lift in the frontcourt off the bench. And over the last couple of weeks, lanky wingman Dakari Tucker has found his niche off the bench, knocking down some big shots and making some plays on the defensive end of the floor.
Much of this has been like found riches for the Utah coaching staff, which had very little expectation for many of these young players when the season began. The script for this team was supposed to be returning players and transfers getting Utah through till next season. Instead, the first-year guys have made their marks.
With that said, there are still holes to fill on the floor for Utah and more talent is needed. This team still lacks the kind of individual talent it takes to compete at a high level in the Pac-12. The good news is that the incoming recruiting class may very well contain that talent.
Utah has five players committed already for next season with the recruiting process continuing. Here are three players that should have a big impact on the improvement of Utah basketball next season.
Delon Wright: Wright is exactly what Utah is lacking right now. An athletic 6-5 wingman, who can score the basketball in a variety of ways. Wright is completing his second year at San Francisco City College and is more than ready to step into the Pac-12. Wright is the younger brother of Philadelphia 76er Dorell Wright. Utah beat out Gonzaga, Washington, Washington State and Saint Mary's for his services. He will have an impact the moment he steps on campus.
Parker Van Dyke: Getting Jordan Loveridge to commit was huge for Utah. Getting Van Dyke is just as big. A local kid from East High who can play the point (6-3), Van Dyke can also score (he leads Utah 4A in scoring). He should challenge Brandon Taylor for major minutes at the point next season.
Marko Kovacevic: The 6-11 Serb was originally committed to play this season at Montana. He's sitting out this year at Western Nebraska JC. He's an offensively skilled big man that should fill the front court scoring void left by the graduation of Jason Washburn. He'll also add some toughness to the Utes' frontcourt.
Coaching and effort can only take you so far. Talent is the name of every game, and Utah appears to have more of it on the way.
Bill Riley is the co-host of the Bill and Hans Show weekdays from 2-6 p.m on ESPN 700 AM. You can follow Bill on Twitter @espn700bill.