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The Runnin' Utes have earned a commitment from the top-rated in-state big man who they think could turn out to be a lockdown defender by the rim.
Makol Mawien, a 6-foot-9, 200-pound forward out of Granger High, talked to coach Larry Krystkowiak on Thursday afternoon to accept Utah's scholarship offer. It's a big recruiting pickup for the Utes for the 2015 class just as the staff is preparing to leave for China with the Pac-12 All-Star team.
As for Mawien, he just wanted to stay home.
"I think I'll succeed here, and I think staying home will be the best for me," he said "I like their style, I like Coach K, and he's a good coach. I think it will be a great place to play."
Mawien sat on the offer for more than a year before finally deciding Utah was the right destination for him. Utah Prospects coach Lynn Lloyd said the big man wanted a chance to play through the July evaluation period, but then hustled to commit soon after to give Krystkowiak the good news.
"He didn't want to wait until Larry got home," Lloyd said. "He didn't want to drag it out once he knew, and he didn't want to worry about it as he prepares for his high school season.
The rising senior is thin and somewhat raw offensively, lacking what Lloyd called "a go-to move." But what the Utes get is a three-star prospect who can defend with the best of the bigs.
Mawien has made his name on the recruiting circuit by being a rim protector. He went to the Big Man Academy in New Jersey this summer, as well as the LeBron James Skills Academy in Las Vegas last month. He averaged about 16 points and seven rebounds per game last year for the Lancers.
Mawien said he knows he is valued as a defender, but he wants to emulate his NBA idol Hakeem Olajuwon and his silky offensive game. After building up a relationship with Krystkowiak over time, he feels like Utah is a place where he can develop some of those skills.
"I think he knows a lot of what I can do," Mawien said of Krystkowiak, a former NBA big man himself. "He's given me a lot of tips, like facing up and taking hook shots. That's one of the things I like about Utah."
Mawien was born in Egypt before moving to the United States at a young age and taking up basketball in third grade. He wasn't a talked-about prospect until the last few years, when he traveled with the Utah Prospects and started showing he could swat other bigs.
Lloyd said when he first approached Mawien about joining his AAU club, he was shocked to find that the Granger forward hadn't been asked to play by anyone else. His gain, in the end.
"He's got great skills, a great motor and great hands," Lloyd said. "He's got to put on a little weight, but he's very strong, and he's got a good frame for adding some weight. I think he has a lot of room to grow."
Mawien joins Hunter's Noah Togiai as the other 2015 incoming freshman, and former Brighton star Brandon Miller will be coming off an LDS Church mission. The three account for all the Utes' planned available scholarships, but there could be a possibility that the program frees a scholarship if there's another prospect it wants, such as Olympus guard Jake Lindsey.
It's worth noting that the Utes have a full in-state class for 2015, and are continuing a trend of picking up Utah-produced big men. Freshman Brekkott Chapman was a four-star forward out of Roy last year, while junior Jordan Loveridge was one of the first big recruits of Krystkowiak's tenure out of West Jordan.
Kyle Goonkgoon@sltrib.comTwitter: @kylegoon