SALT LAKE CITY — Utah senior Parker Van Dyke is about to complete a unique four-year involvement in the rivalry with BYU. Saturday’s Beehive Classic game between the Utes and Cougars at Vivint Arena will be his first at a neutral site. Van Dyke was also on the roster when the teams met in the Huntsman Center in 2013, the Marriott Center in 2017, and 2016 when the rivals did not play.
For Van Dyke, the rivalry turned out to be one of this, one of that, one whatchamacallit, and one of these.
“Initially I was sad not to play them at the Huntsman Center again,” said Van Dyke, who was serving a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Alabama from 2014-16. “It’s a great atmosphere when you get to play a rivalry game at home. I think this is going to be a really cool experience at Vivint. I’m a huge Jazz fan, so it’s already really cool for me to be able to play there. Then, I think it will be a really fun atmosphere for both teams to play on a neutral site. It should be a really good crowd for both student sections and both fan sections.”
Van Dyke predicts it’ll be loud for whoever scores in the first neutral-site meeting between the rivals since the 2006 Mountain West Conference tournament at the Pepsi Center in Denver.
“So hopefully it’s just a great atmosphere and hopefully there’s a lot of fans from both sides, especially a lot of Utah fans, and I think there will be from what I’ve heard,” Van Dyke said. “So I’m just looking forward to another great opportunity. I love this opportunity to play against BYU.”
The former East High star added that he is grateful to have been part of the rivalry as a fan and a player.
“It’s really cool for me as a local kid to be in something like the Beehive Classic, to play against local players,” said Van Dyke, who had fun playing against Utah State in last year’s event. “So it’s something I really like.”
Same goes for getting to play on an NBA floor. Van Dyke noted that it’s just another cool atmosphere to be at and to play at.
Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak noted that from a fan perspective the doubleheader that also features Utah State and Weber State is a great thing, assuming the building can be packed.
“So it’s on,” he said. “It’s a big week.”
Krystkowiak acknowledged that the game pitting the Utes and Cougars has “a lot of magnitude behind it” and they’re “going to get ready to roll.”
Utah (4-3) is coming off a 69-64 win over Tulsa on Dec. 1. The Utes are in the midst of a scheduling stretch featuring one game per week. After facing BYU, their next outing is Dec. 15 at Kentucky.
Krystkowiak noted the difficulty in trying to schedule games every five days or so. Tournaments, rivalry contests and the length of the season can make things challenging. On the other hand, such breaks can help a team heal up, combat illness and give it time to work on things.”
“I like playing one game a week. We can address a lot of those things in a practice setting. We’ve got finals coming up next week,” said Krystkowiak, who also noted the week prior is also difficult. “You certainly don’t want to be on the road, traveling a whole lot and being away from home. So there are a lot of things that go into it.”
At the end of the day, however, Krystkowiak noted that you don’t talk a lot about your schedule.
“You get through them and everybody ends up playing 30-some games and then the dust settles and you see where you go,” he said.
As for the future of the Beehive Classic, which has one year left on a three-year agreement, Krystkowiak said it'll likely depend on the support the gathering draws. Last year’s gathering drew just under 7,800 fans.
Van Dyke, though, hopes things get extended.
“I really like the idea of it because I really enjoy the in-state rivalries and I hope those continue to live on — even though we’re in different conferences and what not,” he said. “So I hope it gets bigger. I hope it continues to gain more exposure throughout the years. I think it can happen.”
Van Dyke thinks it’s great for the state and expressed hope that it could be turned into some sort of a tournament, perhaps involving Southern Utah and Utah Valley as well.
For now, though, it’s all about Saturday. It’ll mark a reunion, of sorts, between the Utes and BYU’s Nick Emery — the first meeting since the infamous punch at Utah’s Brandon Taylor in 2015 that led to the disruption of the series in 2016.
Van Dyke said the team hasn’t really talked about it too much.14 comments on this story
“We are aware that he is playing, though, and he is a good player and has an ability to contribute in the game,” Van Dyke said. “So we’re prepared to guard him when he’s in the game and we’re prepared to play against him, for sure.
“I think there’s a little bit of added, I guess, rivalry to this rivalry game because of the history, because of the past. But we’re going to approach it as if he was or as if he wasn’t going to play as far as our mindset,” Van Dyke continued. “We’re just excited for the opportunity to be in the rivalry game. But for the fans, I can’t speak for the fans. I think it may be a little bit more hostile than usual because of the situation.”