Adam Fondren, Deseret News
Utah basketball coach Larry Krystkowiak says this season's squad is the most athletic team in his tenure at Utah.

SALT LAKE CITY — Collective offensive efficiency and a together kind of defense are “non-negotiables” as far as Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak is concerned. He insists it will always be that way.

That’s not to say, however, that Krystkowiak isn’t open to other changes. Armed with what he says is the most athletic team the Utes have had since his tenure with the program began in 2011-12, Krystkowiak is confident they can press and trap with regularity. He said they’ve got a number of players on the roster who have 4-5 inches more on their wingspan than their height, allowing them to get more deflections and such.

Krystkowiak is hopeful that will lead to scoring more points out of defense, something the Utes haven’t done a whole lot of in the past.

“I think that will be a new wrinkle for us moving forward,” he said.

By doing so, Krystkowiak continued, Utah may have a niche in the Pac-12. Oregon’s defensive style might be the closest thing to it.

“But I do think we have the kind of athletes that can pull that off,” Krystkowiak said.

Senior guards Sedrick Barefield and Parker Van Dyke join junior center Jayce Johnson and sophomore Donnie Tillman as the leading returnees, blending with seven scholarship newcomers.

Krystkowiak credited the group for providing good leadership in the offseason.

The true freshmen include guard Naseem Gaskin, forward Both Gach, forward Timmy Allen, forward Riley Battin and forward Lahat Thioune. Forward Charles Jones Jr. is a junior college transfer and center Novak Topalovic is a graduate transfer from Idaho State.

Redshirt freshman Vante Hendrix (formerly Devante Doutrive), a guard, is also in the mix.

“I think, without a doubt, we’re going to win warmups a lot more often, but that doesn’t lead to more W’s or anything like that,” Krystkowiak said. “It’s a little bit of a challenge as coaches, too, because we’ve got to change some of what we’re doing. I’m looking forward to some new things.”

Utah’s increased athleticism, he noted, is only one component of the game.

“We’re just in the early stages trying to sort it all out and get guys brought up to speed with what we’re doing,” said Krystkowiak, who added that there’s a lot of teaching and terminology work taking place — along with breaking down film and players coming in on their own to study it more.

After a good summer, the Utes have been able to practice four hours per week under NCAA rules since school started in late August. Regular practices begin Thursday.

“We’re excited to get it going where we can have a little bit more of a workload,” Krystkowiak said. “We’re in a good spot, I think, as far as what we’ve put in and not overdone it.”

Utah’s first game is an exhibition against the College of Idaho on Nov. 1. The Utes open the season one week later against Maine. The latter opens an ambitious non-conference slate that includes games at Minnesota and Kentucky, as well as three contests at the Wooden Legacy Classic in Fullerton, California. A game against BYU in the Beehive Classic and a Huntsman Center clash with Nevada are also on the schedule.

Krystkowiak acknowledged that the Utes have “got to be ready to rock” given the challenges.

“It’s never boring,” he said. “It’s a different script each year.”

The upgraded schedule, Krystkowiak explained, is kind of like taking a next step for the program. He said the following season is going to be tough as well.

As for now, Krystkowiak said the Utes have plenty of weapons.

“We’re fired up. It’s a good group. It’s a fun group to work with,” Krystkowiak said. “You don’t downplay any one season, or get too excited about it, it’s got a different set of challenges. We’ll just get started (this) week and start chipping away, you know, and try to get better.”

Utah’s “Media Day” is set for Wednesday. Krystkowiak admits he doesn’t really have a term to define this season’s team. The Utes went 23-12 last season and reached the NIT championship game at Madison Square Garden. Senior starters Gabe Bealer, Justin Bibbins, David Collette and Tyler Rawson concluded their collegiate careers in the 82-66 loss to Penn State on March 29.

“You’re always starting with a different cast of characters,” he said. “It’s not a rebuild by any means because we’ve got enough experience in guys that have been around. But it’s another season.”

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2018-19 Utah basketball roster

No. Player Ht. Wt. Position Year

0 Naseem Gaskin 6-3 175 Guard Freshman

1 Charles Jones, Jr. 6-2 200 Guard Junior

2 Sedrick Barefield 6-2 190 Guard Senior

3 Donnie Tillman 6-7 225 Forward Sophomore

5 Parker Van Dyke 6-3 195 Guard Senior

10 Christian Popoola 6-4 190 Guard Sophomore

11 Both Gach 6-7 195 Forward Freshman

13 Novak Topalovic 7-0 230 Forward Senior

14 Vante Hendrix 6-5 190 Guard Freshman (RS)

15 Kevin Kremer 6-4 190 Guard Freshman

20 Timmy Allen 6-6 210 Forward Freshman

21 Riley Battin 6-9 220 Forward Freshman

25 Beau Rydalch 6-6 210 Guard Junior

30 Brooks King 6-3 200 Guard Freshman (RS)

31 Brandon Morley 7-0 205 F/C Junior

32 Lahat Thioune 6-10 210 Forward Freshman

34 Jayce Johnson ` 7-0 235 F/C Junior

40 Marc Reininger 6-9 220 Forward Junior

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2018-19 Utah men’s basketball schedule

NOVEMBER: 1 — COLLEGE OF IDAHO (exhibition); 8 — MAINE; 12 — at Minnesota; 15 — MISSISSIPPI VALLEY STATE; 22 — vs. Hawaii (Wooden Classic at Fullerton, Calif.); 23 — TBA (Wooden Classic at Fullerton, Calif.,) 25 — TBA (Wooden Classic at Fullerton, Calif.).

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DECEMBER: 1 — TULSA; 8 — vs. BYU (Beehive Classic at Vivint Arena); 15 — at Kentucky; 17 — FLORIDA A&M; 21 — NORTHERN ARIZONA; 29 — NEVADA.

Exact dates for Pac-12 games to be announced.

JANUARY: 2-6 — at Arizona and Arizona State; 9-13 — WASHINGTON and WASHINGTON STATE; 16-20 — COLORADO; 23-27 — at California and Stanford.

FEBRUARY: Jan. 30-Feb. 3 — OREGON and OREGON STATE; 6-10 — at UCLA and USC; 13-17 — ARIZONA and ARIZONA STATE; 20-24 — at Washington and Washington State.

MARCH: Feb. 27-March 3 — at Colorado; 6-9 — UCLA and USC.