SALT LAKE CITY — University of Utah basketball coach Larry Krystkowiak has enjoyed good initial success in recruiting the state’s top athletes with the signing of West Jordan’s Jordan Loveridge and the commitment of East’s Parker Van Dyke. Recently, he extended offers to two more top in-state prospects — making a strong impression on both of them.
Orem’s Dalton Nixon and Brighton’s Brandon Miller both recently attended Utah’s elite basketball camp — coming away with offers and a lot of excitement about the future of Ute basketball.
“You really get the sense that he’s doing the right things to turn that program around,” Nixon said. “You look at who he’s brought in already along with just how he is as a coach and, yeah, Utah basketball is going to get a lot better here soon. It’s exciting to have the opportunity to be part of that.”
Nixon is a 6-foot-7 junior-to-be who announced his prospects quite loudly during the 4A state tournament — garnering tournament MVP honors and a state championship. Since then, he’s received great interest from programs such as Stanford, Creighton, Arizona, Utah State, BYU, and of course, Utah.
Utah’s interest in Nixon began during the Great Western Shootout, held at Orem High in December. Orem defeated eventual 5A champ Lone Peak in the tournament, with Krystkowiak watching from the stands.
“I’ve had good contact with Coach K ever since that tournament,” said Nixon. “Coach (Tommy) Connor is someone I talk to often and they’re both guys who I’d love to play for.”
Miller, meanwhile, has received a steady stream of interest stemming from his own impressive run in the 5A state tournament. Miller is a 6-foot-2 guard prospect who averaged 21.6 points last season as a junior.
Miller currently holds offers from Harvard, Princeton, UC Davis, Penn and Brown, with a lot of interest also coming his way from Stanford. With its recent offer, however, Utah is a school he’s thinking about quite a bit.
“The offer from Utah was a long time coming,” said Miller. “Coach K explained to me that he liked to build good relationships with prospects before offering, and we talked a lot about that before I went to their elite camp. I was able to sit down with him at that camp and sort of knew the offer was coming, and I was very excited about it.”
Despite the program’s tremendous difficulties, Krystkowiak has been able to sell the program’s potential and himself well. Nixon noted something quite unique about the coach early on during camp.
“We got there early and started eating breakfast, and I’m looking around for Coach K. I see him outside watering the lawn,” said Nixon. “Here is the head coach of the program out there doing yard work — making sure that every detail to was being taken care of himself.”
To Nixon, it was a striking example of how meticulous and hard-working Utah’s head coach is — that he wasn’t above doing what some may term as menial tasks. “You want a coach who is careful about every detail and willing to work hard, and that’s what Coach K is,” said Nixon.
“He’s someone who really cares about his players and is very straight-forward with them,” added Miller. “When you talk to him, you know that he’s telling you exactly how it is, and he’s easy to talk to and relate to being like that.”
Another key aspect is his ability to have already attracted top in-state talent.
"I didn't like (Loveridge and Van Dyke) when I played against them in high school, but I'd love to play with them in college," Miller said. "Having played against them and a bit with them in AAU ball — you just gain a lot of respect for them and what they can do, so yeah, I'd obviously like to play with both of them at the next level."
Miller is on his way to Stanford this weekend for its camp and hopes to make his commitment before the start of his senior season. He'll consider all options equally until that time and hasn't formed a top-five at this juncture.
Nixon isn't close to making a commitment, given that it's so early in the process. Although, his father Kevin played for BYU, Nixon quickly dismisses any suggestion that he's BYU's to lose should it come forward with an offer.
"Just because my dad played there won't play into my final decision," said Nixon. "I like BYU, but I'm looking at a lot of schools, and I have a lot of interest from other schools."
With the NCAA ruling that coaches can now send unlimited texts, both Miller and Nixon are finding their cell phones buzzing quite frequently. The rule went into effect on June 15, with both players receiving multiple texts as soon as the clock struck midnight.
"I started getting my first texts from the East Coast right at 10 p.m., and when I woke up the next morning I had received a ton more," said Miller. "It was crazy, and they took a long time to go through, but it's calmed down since then. Coaches are smart and they seem to know how to not overwhelm me with texts and other things."