When there is a coaching change at the Division I level, everything is on the table in terms of how it will affect the roster.
The new coach is going to retain some players, he is going to lose some players to the NCAA Transfer Portal, he is going to be able to successfully re-recruit some players that opted for the portal, and he is going to hit the portal for new players to fill out his roster. Some players going to the portal may be very talented, even program cornerstones, and the new coach will simply have to deal with that as it comes.
Budding University of Utah freshman guard Ian Martinez entered the transfer portal on Tuesday morning, and that one seemed to get the fan base buzzing on social media. Martinez is talented and projects well enough where he was likely a future cornerstone, so yes, this particular Utah player opting to survey his options in the transfer portal hurts a little more than your average rotation player leaving.
Yet, this comes as absolutely no surprise, and everybody paying any attention for the last year-plus knows why. Utah got in on Martinez nice and early, when he was a junior at JSerra Catholic. The commitment came in May 2019 after Martinez’s father, Henry, was hired on staff. Krystkowiak is no longer in charge, new Utes head coach Craig Smith has opted not to retain Henry on staff, so Ian is in the transfer portal.
Admittedly, there is a school of thinking that says Smith should have retained Henry Martinez in some capacity in an effort to retain his son. I get that, but I definitely don’t agree with it. I think Ian Martinez is an excellent player with a high ceiling and he is going to do real damage at the Power Five level, but I would not sacrifice a roster spot to appease the family. Nobody asked for it, but that is my opinion.
Credit to Smith, because in the handful of interviews he has done since taking the Utah job on March 27, he has done a nice job of setting the tone for roster volatility in the early days of his tenure. Essentially, his public stance is that, if a player wants to be here, great, and if a player does not want to be here, that’s fine, too.
Smith didn’t believe Henry Martinez was a fit on his staff, and if that meant sacrificing a rotation player and potential cornerstone, so be it.
What’s on my mind, Utah or otherwise
• On the day Smith was hired, I laid out the roster situation, while noting that the situations with Ian Martinez and Rylan Jones, whose father, Chris, was Krystkowiak’s director of basketball operations, are not the same. Nearly two weeks later, Chris Jones was not retained by Smith, but thanks to some intel and a little commonsense, I have every reason to believe Rylan Jones will be on the roster in 2021-22.
• As for the widespread message board rumor that Mikael Jantunen has gone back to Finland, there has been radio silence on my end from people that would be up on such matters. Smith, speaking on ESPN700 on Monday, said the sophomore Finnish forward “is around,” while noting that “he has some great options back home.” As I see it, what Smith said there loosely translates to, “Jantunen is thinking about starting a professional career back home in Europe.” For what it’s worth, one of Jantunen’s mentors, former Utah star Hanno Mottola, was a big fan of Krystkowiak.
• I do not expect Timmy Allen or Alfonso Plummer to return next season. Allen, specifically, is back home in Arizona, as evidenced by his Instagram usage. In fairness, that could mean nothing since he is in the transfer portal and all of his classes are being held remotely anyway, but I’m not buying that scenario.
• Based on who is in the transfer portal, Utah unofficially has four open scholarships to fill for 2021-22, but if you want to count Jantunen, it is actually five. Smith has some work to do, and it’s going to be fascinating what his diving into the portal, looking for Power Five talent for the first time, ultimately yields.
• I’m very interested to see what Smith does with his last assistant spot after bringing DeMarlo Slocum back to Utah, while bringing along his top assistant from Utah State Eric Peterson. That’s a solid two to start, and the right guy for that last spot could turn the staff into a proverbial home run. Of note, Smith is also bringing his USU director of player development, Curran Walsh, to Utah to be the director of basketball operations.
• If UCLA brings back every rotation piece next season, the Bruins have a case as the preseason No. 1, not in the Pac-12, but in the nation.
• Yes, the Jalen Suggs buzzer-beater to beat UCLA in the Final Four is an all-time college basketball moment. Yes, that moment is slightly diluted because of the way Gonzaga got rolled by Baylor two nights later.
• Arizona stuck with Sean Miller for a long time, longer than anyone thought would be reasonable. Miller is unemployed, while Kansas coach Bill Self now has a lifetime contract. What a gig, that college coaching.
• I’m going to need a Chet Hanks origin story at some point. His parents are Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson, and he is who he is, so I need to know how.
• The weather is getting really nice now, which means the car windows go down, and the volume on the radio goes up. I didn’t write the rules, I just follow them.
• The Jets failed Sam Darnold, and they failed him miserably. Zach Wilson, come on down. You’re next to attempt to save the franchise from the abyss!!!