Basketball

Utah Basketball: Which Runnin’ Utes will be honored on Senior Night?

Utah Basketball: Which Runnin' Utes will be honored on Senior Night?

Senior night will look a little different for the University of Utah men’s basketball team on Saturday when they host Pac-12 rival Colorado at the Huntsman Center.

Not as different as last year when fans weren’t allowed into the building due to COVID-19 restrictions and only one player was for sure gone – rarely used senior Brooks King – but different .

Tipoff is at 7:30 p.m. MST and the rematch of CU’s 81-76 win at Boulder three weeks ago will be televised by ESPNU.

“I think some of them will be (decided) very quickly, and I think some of them may be a bit longer depending on the circumstances or the individual.” — Utah basketball coach Craig Smith on whom the seniors will move on, who will return for another year with the Utes

Utah’s roster includes four seniors — David Jenkins Jr., Both Gach, Marco Anthony and Riley Battin — but that doesn’t mean any or all of those players will be saying their final goodbyes. The reason, of course, is that due to the NCAA granting all student-athletes an additional year of eligibility to make up for the pandemic-altered year (2020-21), all four can continue to play college basketball, if that is their desire. .

“We’re going to do it like we always have, in terms of honoring the guys before the game,” coach Craig Smith said Tuesday.

Smith told the Deseret News that as of Tuesday no player had definitively said they would not return. Admittedly, it is not certain that all the players on the list will be invited back. Players are encouraged to switch to all programs in the country. That’s the nature of the game these days.

“I’m still going to talk to a few guys (about their plans),” Smith said. “We are prepared for anything. I mean, obviously we have a pretty good idea of ​​what’s going on, but (I) won’t go into detail right now.

Smith said he had a “schedule” for deciding who would stay and who would leave, but he didn’t share it.

“I think some of them will be (decided) very quickly, and I think some of them may be a bit longer depending on the circumstances or the individual.”

A few weeks ago, Anthony said he had “no idea” if he would return to the team next year. The 22-year-old Utah State transfer has played four full seasons of college basketball and carried a fifth. He sat out in 2019-20 due to NCAA transfer rules then in effect when he moved from Virginia to USU.

Battin is the rare student-athlete who has played four consecutive seasons at the same school. The 6-foot-9 forward from Westlake Village, Calif., earned a business degree last fall and began working on his master’s degree in finance.

But that doesn’t mean he’s ready to move on.

“I have the possibility to come back,” Battin said. “I take the season as it goes and then I will reevaluate it. … But I’m definitely willing to come back if that’s what’s best for me.

Battin doesn’t play as much as he did earlier in his career under Larry Krystkowiak, but he’s still seen as a valuable contributor who brings a positive attitude to everyday practice. Also, 6-9 guys with his outside shooting ability are hard to come by.

“As far as the culture and everything Coach Smith brings, it’s great,” said Battin, who entered the transfer portal when Krystkowiak was fired last spring and then returned to the United States. United after meeting Smith. “You know, it’s a great place. All the coaches are great people, and I couldn’t be happier with my season and being part of it.

Like Battin, Gach played four consecutive college basketball seasons — the first two at Utah, the third at Minnesota and the fourth at Utah. His return has produced a roller coaster season – dynamite one minute and inconsistent the next.

Gach hasn’t publicly discussed his future plans in recent months, but last summer he told the Deseret News he wasn’t opposed to playing a fifth season if things worked out well for him. in Salt Lake City.

Jenkins started the season looking like he was going to be Utah’s leading scorer, scoring 15, 7, 25, 13, 13, 9 and 21 points in his first seven games. He only hit double figures twice in his next eight games and fell out of favor with the coaching staff. His minutes have dropped.

Last week he played 21 minutes and scored 14 points against Arizona, and followed that up with a 14-minute, three-point outing against Arizona State.

Jenkins played his first two seasons at South Dakota State, redshirted in 2019-20 due to NCAA transfer rules, then played at UNLV in 2020-21 and was second-best Rebels scorer with an average of 14.8.

Given the way his season in Salt Lake City has been and the way Smith has followed a youth movement into the backcourt — debutants Gabe Madsen and Lazar Stefanovic and sophomore Rollie Worster — it would be a surprise if Jenkins returns, or is invited back.

Utah (11-18, 4-15) currently sits 11th in the Pac-12 standings, but can move to a tie for 10th and get the No. 10 conference tournament seed, if they win Saturday and Cal (5-14) loses to first place Arizona.

Colorado (11-8, 19-10) is coming off a 79-63 win over the No. 2-ranked Wildcats.

“They played at a really high level on Saturday against Arizona,” Smith said. “Obviously we’ll prepare for them like we do for any other opponent. They’re a tough game in a lot of ways. They’ve got a big size in their lineup and then their two point guards are very athletic. put a lot of pressure.

Will this be the last time Battin faces the Buffaloes? He doesn’t know, of course. The Californian said he considers BYU the Utes’ biggest basketball rival “to be so close to each other and have that history.”

But Colorado is also stocking up on juice.

“I would say it’s our league rivalry, of course,” he said. “Being travel partners, and playing on the same schedule a bit and both having elevation in our favor, I think that definitely brings a bit more to our game.”