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Within the Pac-12, there's going to be some stellar incoming men's basketball talent. Both Arizona and UCLA have top-five classes according to several recruiting websites, and top-10 recruits like UCLA's Lonzo Ball and Washington's Markelle Fultz are expected to be transcendent in likely one-and-done seasons.
But even grading Utah's incoming class provides some challenges for conventional recruiting sites. When you grade the 2016 class, do you include transfers such as David Collette and Sedrick Barefield? Do you put in Jayce Johnson, who reclassified and enrolled last December for a redshirt year? How do you grade Jakub Jokl, a Czech big man who spent last year in a Spanish hoops academy?
That's the nature of Utah basketball recruiting this past year; in the search for talent, the coaching staff has taken some talent from prep school, junior college, transfers and overseas. And that may be the blueprint from here on out as well. Convention has never been a concern for the Utes in the search for talent.
"They're certainly creative," said Evan Daniels, Scout.com's director of basketball recruiting. "They've had some success with JC guys, but I don't know if their identity is in junior college, because they can step into California and get a guy like Jayce Johnson. They just try to turn over every stone."
This year has seen the Utes scouring as hard as any time since head coach Larry Krystkowiak came aboard. From last season's roster, only four scholarship players who earned minutes are expected to return. The Utes will see at least eight newcomers nine, if you count returning missionary Parker Van Dyke as "new" hit the court for the 2016-17 season, with some becoming eligible after the fall semester ends.
Part of the overhaul is necessity: In addition to three scholarship seniors graduating and Jakob Poeltl leaving for the NBA, five scholarship players have transferred out of the program since Brandon Miller left in December. Isaiah Wright, Chris Reyes and Makol Mawien transferred out in search of more playing time this offseason, while Brekkott Chapman left apparently looking for a fresh start.
Utah's five transfers and a possible retirement for Kenneth Ogbe, which is still up in the air are the most of any Pac-12 school.
In a recent interview, Krystkowiak told The Tribune that there was no universal explanation for the transfers, and his staff was ready to move on. He said he doesn't "play favorites" by giving time to veteran players, and a newcomer has as much of a chance to play as a third-year player. In today's culture, he said, that doesn't always play well.
"Culturally, kids have this attitude today where it's like the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence," he said. "I think there's times where kids hit adversity and should try to fight through it. That's how we try to do our job as coaches and mentors."
While such turnover may alarm some fans, recruiting analysts don't seem to waiver. While ESPN's Jeff Borzello said the high turnover "caught me off guard," he added that Utah doesn't come across as a program in turmoil.
The bigger question for the Utes is, are they bumping up against that proverbial glass ceiling? Utah's success opened doors for high-level prospects, but the Utes were runners-up for elite players such as Frank Jackson, Lauri Markkanen, Omer Yurtseven and Zach Collins.
"Just in general, they're sort of in a tough spot," Borzello said. "If they go for a high-level kid from California, you're also going to be competing against UCLA, Arizona. If Duke comes in-state for one of your kids, that's going to be tough to beat. A lot of schools, they're getting creative like Utah is, going to JC kids and going to Europe. As a result, their team ranking nationally is not going to really reflect who they're bringing in."
In Johnson, the Utes did win a recruiting battle "for a guy everyone in the Pac-12 would've wanted," Daniels said. But the bulk of Utah's classes are unlikely to be four- and five-star rated recruits out of high school.
That's not necessarily a bad thing, either. Utah's recent NBA success stories highlight how much gold the program has mined by looking where others don't. A skinny kid out of City College of San Francisco became NBA guard Delon Wright. An enigmatic big man from a country with no basketball tradition became future first-round pick Jakob Poeltl.
"I do think Larry Krystkowiak is a heck of a coach, and I think they're building on that," Daniels said. "Roster turnover is different, and their recruiting is different, but they've shown that they can do a lot with what they have."
In-state recruiting might be one of the glaring areas of concern lately: With Chapman's transfer, Van Dyke and Rawson are now the only Utah natives on scholarship, and BYU's roster in particular is stocked with many of the state's best recruits.
The Utes are already reportedly invested in several in-state prospects down the road, including 2017 recruit Brendan Carlson, a 6-foot-11 forward from Bingham, and 2018 recruit Emmanuel Akot, a 6-7 wing from Wasatch Academy.
While Krystkowiak is aware that some may be skeptical of Utah's roster shake-up, he has never been one to linger on perception. He said his staff is confident in the pieces they've brought in, and the Utes think they'll have a chance to be successful even if recruiting rankings don't value the additions.
"We've got some spots with not a lot of experience, but I think all the kids coming into the program are excited about that," he said. "We're gonna scramble them all up and see what we can put together."
Incoming and outgoing
The Utes will feature many new faces next year, with five scholarship transfers out of the program since last December, and nine players who are entering the program this summer or didn't play last year:
Sedrick Barefield, 6-foot-2, guard • Transfer from SMU, eligible in December
Tim Coleman, 6-foot-1, guard • Lee College, Texas
David Collette, 6-foot-10, forward • Transfer from Utah State, eligible in December
Devon Daniels, 6-foot-5, guard • Prolific Prep Academy, Calif.
Jayce Johnson, 6-foot-11, center • Santa Monica High School, Calif. (redshirted last season)
Jakub Jokl, 6-foot-11, center • Canarias Basketball Academy (Spain)
Tyler Rawson, 6-foot-10, forward • Salt Lake Community College
Parker Van Dyke, 6-foot-3, guard • Coming off LDS Church Mission (played in 2013-14 season)
JoJo Zamora, 6-foot-2, guard • Yuba College, Calif.
Brekkott Chapman • to be determined
Makol Mawien • New Mexico Junior College
Brandon Miller • Dixie State
Chris Reyes • Pepperdine
Isaiah Wright • San Diego