This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
A troubling rite of spring continues for Utah men's basketball: players transferring from the program.
Devon Daniels and JoJo Zamora, who combined for 46 starts in Utah's backcourt this past season, will not return, the Utes announced in a news release on Friday afternoon. It leaves Utah scrambling less than two weeks from Signing Day to replace at least three key starters from last year's team, which went 20-12 and finished fourth in the Pac-12.
"There are certain responsibilities and expectations that are critical in being a member of our program," coach Larry Krystkowiak said in the release. "We wish these young men the very best in their future endeavors."
After a first-round loss in the NIT earlier this month, Krystkowiak said he was looking forward to returning a team with experience. But Daniels and Zamora comprised a big chunk of Utah's backcourt minutes last season that is now gone.
The 6-foot-5 Daniels averaged 10 points and 4.7 rebounds per game this past season after coming from Prolific Prep in California, impressing as a freshman and immediate starter. Zamora, a 6-foot-2 transfer from Yuba College, worked his way into the lineup as the season progressed, averaging 6.9 ppg.
Daniels' status with the team soured late in the season, when he served a three-game suspension for "conduct detrimental to the team." In an interview with the Tribune, Daniels said both he and the coaching staff agreed following the season that it would be better if he started fresh at another school.
"It was definitely hard, because I love my teammates," Daniels said. "The coaches taught me a lot. But I talked with my family and the coaches, and we thought it would be best for both parties. For the Utes and me."
Zamora shared his desire to transfer as well with Daniels shortly before their departures were announced. The junior guard was not immediately available for comment.
Daniels said his suspension wasn't the moment when he was certain he would leave.
"I honestly thought it was good for me," he said. "I came back, tried to help the team as much. I thought it was like a good experience. Of course we didn't win as much as we wanted to, but I grew a lot as a person. I became stronger."
Krystkowiak talked about keeping Daniels in the fold toward the end of the season, acknowledging his status was tenuous.
"Certain things have to change, and he knows that," Krystkowiak said after the regular-season finale against Stanford. "I've been sleeping on it, praying on it. Hopefully something comes clean and we're doing everything that's right for our basketball program."
Krystkowiak has seen many transfers since taking over the program in 2011. While he has a 115-85 record at Utah, finishing with 20 wins or more in each of the past four seasons, he's dealt with significant overhaul each of the past two seasons with nine scholarship transfers in the last year and a half.
Utah has seen three transfers in the past four months, with Tim Coleman departing in December after only a few months in the program.
Daniels and Zamora's transfers are significant: When taken with the graduation of Lorenzo Bonam, three of Utah's top six scorers from last season will not return. Utah's overall leading scorer last season, Kyle Kuzma, declared for the NBA Draft, but has not yet hired an agent. If he departs, only rising senior forward David Collette returns from Utah's most-used starting lineup last year.
That means Utah has huge ground to cover in recruiting: The only commitment on track to join the team next season is Donnie Tillman, a 6-foot-7 forward from Las Vegas. Fellow commitments Branden Carlson and Jaxon Brenchley are scheduled to go on LDS Church missions and join in 2019.
Utah also plans to return Sedrick Barefield (9.0 ppg) and Parker Van Dyke (4.6 ppg) and Gabe Bealer (3.6 ppg), who had starting experience last year.