Jakob Poeltl

Poeltl entering NBA draft

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Utah sophomore Jakob Poeltl is entering the NBA draft and hiring an agent, he announced Wednesday.

It certainly not a surprising move for the 7-footer as he’s a likely lottery pick after averaging 17.2 points, 9.1 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game this past season. He’s largely considered the top center prospect in this year’s draft.

“I’m not sure if I want to leave — I want to do both, even though it’s not possible,” he said according to the Salt Lake Tribune. “I had such a good time here with everybody involved, that’s what made it hard on me. But at the end of the day, it was the decision I had and wanted to make to move on with my basketball career.”

The Utes will miss their foundational piece that led them to back-to-back NCAA tournaments the past two years as an All-American and Pac-12 player of the year, but Larry Krystkowiak won’t be overseeing a full-scale rebuilding project as much of last year’s core, which won 27 games and finished second in the conference, returns. Utah will also welcome top-100 center Jayce Johnson, a 6-foot-11 center from California.

 

Could a small change help Utah’s Jakob Poeltl improve his free throw numbers?

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Utah sophomore center Jakob Poeltl is a potential top-10 pick in the 2016 NBA Draft if he has another good season for the Utes, but he was very weak in one key area last season. The 7-foot native of Austria was an early force as a freshman last season and shot 68 percent from the floor for a Sweet 16 team, but he was only 44 percent from the charity stripe.

For a center like Poeltl, who is going to draw a lot of fouls, 44 percent is just asking opposing teams for a “hack-a-player” scenario at the end of a half.

But according to a story from Kyle Goon of the Salt Lake Tribune, Poeltl had his eyes examined during the summer and he’s wearing contact lenses again. Could this be the type of change that helps Poeltl see the basket a bit better?

The game is also easier when you can see the court clearly.

Poeltl got his eyes examined during the Nike camp, where he learned his left eye was weaker than his right. He used to wear contacts several years back, and decided to get them again this summer.

The difference is nearly imperceptible to him day-to-day. But he believes it’s helped his depth perception. The basket seems easier to gauge, and his shots seem to be going in more.

It’s hard to say if this small change will help Poeltl see the basket better and help him make more free throws, but if he can, that’s a scary thought. Draft Express currently rates Poeltl as the No. 10 overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft and he averaged 9.1 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game in only 23.3 minutes per game last season. If improves his free-throw percentage even by a few points, it’ll be a big improvement in his game.

Looking Forward: Potential Breakout Stars in 2015-16

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With the early entry process over and with just about every elite recruit having picked a school, we now have a pretty good idea of what college basketball will look like in 2015-16. Over the next three weeks, we’ll be taking an early look at next season.

Today, we’re Looking Forward at potential breakout stars:

Grayson Allen, Duke: The argument could be make that Allen has already broken out. That’s what happens when a freshman goes from struggling to get off of Duke’s bench to being arguably their most important player in a come-from-behind win in the national title game. Allen is going to once again have his work cut out for him getting playing time — that’s what happens when three five-star perimeter players join the program — but he should be Coach K’s best slasher next season.

Malik Pope, San Diego State: Pope’s tools are off the charts. He’s a 6-foot-9 wing with length, athleticism and three-point range. He finally got healthy midway through his freshman season, and proceeded to put together a handful of dominant performances for the Aztecs last season. If he adds some strength, improves his consistency and — most importantly — stays healthy, we could be looking at a lottery pick.

Isaac Copeland, Georgetown: Copeland is such a skilled forward. In addition to being 6-foot-8 and athletic, Copeland is the kind of versatile offensive talent that usually thrives under John Thompson III. With the Hoyas losing Josh Smith and Mikael Hopkins, there are going to be front court minutes for the taking.

READ MORE: The NBCSports.com preseason top 25

Demetrius Jackson, Notre Dame: Jackson flashed some of his ability during last year’s NCAA tournament, but the fact of the matter is that the talented and athletic point guard was the fourth-best player on the Irish as a sophomore. Don’t be surprised to see him become an all-american as a junior as he takes over Jerian Grant’s role.

Jakob Poeltl, Utah: Poeltl could have been a lottery pick had he decided to go to the NBA this spring. Instead, Larry Krystkowiak will have a chance to work his magic with the Austrian big man for an entire offseason. Poeltl’s potential is very high, and while he was inconsistent as a freshman, Poeltl was fantastic in the month of March.

Marcus Lee, Kentucky: Will Marcus Lee finally get his chance this season? The former top 30 recruit has proven to be effective in the limited minutes that he has played the last two season, but his minutes have been understandably limited during his time in Lexington. He may not be Willie Cauley-Stein or Karl Towns, but Lee should be an excellent sidekick to Skal Labissiere in Kentucky’s front court.

Bronson Koenig, Wisconsin: Koenig was brilliant when he got the chance to replace the injured Traevon Jackson as Bo Ryan’s primary point guard midway through the season. With the Badgers losing so much this offseason, Koenig and Nigel Hayes will be tasked with keeping the Badgers in the Big Ten’s top four.

Josh Hart, Villanova: Hart is the typical power wing that Jay Wright has been so successsful with over the years. He’s a better scorer than he gets credit for and is a terrific defender and offensive rebounder. Hart should end up being an all-Big East player this season.

Dillon Brooks, Oregon: Brooks reclassified in the spring and enrolled at Oregon a year earlier than initially expected, and it ended up being fantastic for Dana Altman, as Brooks was, at times, Oregon’s best player. Expect more of the same from him as a sophomore.

Jonathan Motley, Baylor: Motley was just a three-star recruit when he arrived in Waco, but the athletic, 6-foot-10 center had some truly dominating performances during the year. Motley, teaming with Rico Gathers and Taurean Prince, will give the Bears one of the nation’s best front lines.

Ben Bentil, Providence: Bentil was fantastic for the Friars for stretches late in the season, and with LaDontae Henton graduating, there will shots and rebounds available for Bentil to collect.

Utah’s Jakob Poeltl will return to school for his sophomore season

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Utah’s Jakob Poeltl (AP Photo)

Utah announced on Monday morning that star center Jakob Poeltl will be returning to college for his sophomore season.

“I really enjoy it here at the University of Utah,” Poeltl said. “I love my teammates, coaches and college in general. I think another year will help my development and I’m looking forward to next season.”

READ MORE: Most Important Draft Decisions | Early Entry List

Poeltl had a chance to be a first round pick had he decided to declare for the draft, but that selection would have been based mostly on potential. A seven-foot native of Austria, Poeltl is long, athletic and mobile with terrific hands. He’s a shot-blocking presence at the rim and he was impressive at times working with Delon Wright in the pick-and-roll.

Poeltl averaged 9.1 points, 6.8 boards and 1.9 blocks this past season, and he posted 13.3 points, 5.7 boards and 3.0 blocks in three games in the NCAA tournament this past season.

Getting Poeltl back is huge for Utah, who will have a chance to remain among the best teams in the Pac-12. They lose Wright, an all-american, and big man Dallin Bachynski, but they return Poeltl and Brandon Taylor, along with the terrific recruiting class that Larry Krystkowiak brought in last season.

“One of my favorite parts of this story is that immediately after informing us of his return, he starting talking about our goals for next year’s team,” Krystkowiak stated. “He went from `me’ to `we’ pretty darn quick and that’s our culture.”

College basketball’s eight most important NBA Draft decisions

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Yogi Ferrell (AP Photo)

Yogi Ferrell, Indiana: No one has more on the line with a little more than a week left before the NBA Draft’s early entry deadline than the Hoosiers, who will be waiting until April 25th to find out whether or not their star point guard will be back on the roster in 2015-16. Ferrell averaged 16.3 points and 4.9 assists last year, but more importantly, he was the point guard that made Indiana’s spread-out offensive attack so dangerous. You can’t guard Ferrell one-on-one, but you can’t help off of James Blackmon, or Robert Johnson, or any of Indiana’s myriad of shooters.

With Thomas Bryant set to join the program next season as well, the Hoosiers have already addressed their issue of rebounding, shotblocking and toughness in the paint. Now they just need their point guard back, because with him, they’re a preseason top 15 team. Without him? The NIT is possible.

READ MORE: Who has declared for the draft, and who is returning to school?

Ty Wallace, Cal: The Golden Bears struggled in Cuonzo Martin’s first season as head coach, but much of that was due to a lack of depth and some injuries. With Jabari Bird and Jordan Mathews back, Kameron Rooks healthy, Stephen Domingo eligible and top five recruit Ivan Raab joining the program, Cal as the pieces to be a threat in the Pac-12. But, like Indiana, they need their point guard, Wallace, back. He averaged 17.1 points, 7.1 boards and 4.0 assists last season.

Buddy Hield, Oklahoma: The Sooners are already losing Tashawn Thomas to graduation, and with Frank Booker transferring out of the program, Lon Kruger’s back court depth will already be tested next season. Hield, the reigning Big 12 Player of the Year, is good enough keep Oklahoma in and around the top 15, considering Ryan Spangler, Isaiah Cousins and Jordan Woodard all return. Without him, and the Sooners will have to scrap to ensure a tournament berth.

Kyle Wiltjer, Gonzaga: Mark Few is already losing his starting back court of Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell to graduation, and with all due respect to Josh Perkins and Silas Melson, that’s a loss that is going to be tough to overcome. Getting Przemek Karnowski and Domas Sabonis back ensures the Zags will have a formidable front line, but Wiltjer’s ability to spread the floor due to his scoring prowess creates all kinds of space on the interior. He’ll be a preseason all-american if he returns.

READ MORE: NBCSports.com’s Preseason Top 25

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Kris Dunn (Getty Images)

Here’s the kicker for Gonzaga fans: It seems going pro is something Wiltjer is actually toying with, but at this point, he’s not an NBA player. But if he gets his degree and decides he wants to start making money playing basketball, can anyone really look down on him for it?

Kris Dunn, Providence: If Kris Dunn returns to school, we’re looking at a first-team all-american that is good enough to carry the Friars back to the NCAA tournament. Without Dunn, who is a late-first round pick, the Friars will likely be back in rebuilding mode. There’s a real chance he comes back, however. Improve his jumper, cut down on those turnovers, and he’s a lottery pick, potentially top ten.

Caris LeVert, Michigan: I’ll just get this out of the way now: I think it would be foolish for LeVert to return to school. He’s broken the same foot twice in the last year, and feet are not a part of the body that professional athletes want to mess with. Playing another year in college is a serious risk, especially if he’s not completely healthy by the start of the year. That said, NBA team are aware of this as well, which means he may have already fallen out of the first round. If he comes back and he’s healthy, we’re looking at an all-american that can climb right back up those draft boards.

With LeVert, Michigan should be really good as well. We all saw how well Beilein had his kids playing by the end of last season, and that was without LeVert or starting point guard Derrick Walton. With LeVert, they’re probably top 25-good. Without him, we’re likely looking at a bubble team.

A.J. Hammons, Purdue: When Hammons is engaged, he’s an all-Big Ten caliber player. This past season, he was engaged, and it helped get Purdue to the NCAA tournament. He’s a defensive menace with a developing post game that would give Purdue a pair of seven-footers on their front line. The Boilermakers still could make an NCAA tournament without him, but if he’s back, they’re a borderline top 25 team.

Jakob Poeltl, Utah: Poeltl is a borderline lottery pick, and it would seem sensible for him to head off to the NBA. But there actually seems to be some doubt in whether or not he is going to go, and if he does decide to come back, the Utes will have at their disposal one of the best big men in the Pac-12. With Poeltl, they should make a second-straight NCAA tournament despite the fact they lose Delon Wright. Without him, they’re probably going to end up being a bubble team.

Jakob Poeltl leads No. 5 Utah to a win over No. 12 Stephen F. Austin

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Jakob Poeltl is the leader in the clubhouse when it comes to the NCAA tournament’s breakout star.

The 7-foot Austrian had 18 points, eight boards and five blocks to lead No. 5 Utah to a 57-50 win over a feisty No. 12 Stephen F. Austin team. Poeltl was 7-for-7 from the floor, and while he was a good five inches taller than any Lumberjack on the floor, it’s still nice to see a big man dominate a game the way that he did. Poeltl is a guy that has been on the radar of NBA scouts since early in the season, and while he’s been a bit inconsistent throughout the year, he played some terrific basketball down the stretch. A big tournament could be a blessing in disguise, as Poeltl may have a shot to head to the NBA this spring.

And Utah needed every bit of it.

Delon Wright, the All-American Ute that is a projected first round pick, had 11 points, six boards and three steals, but he also committed six turnovers and shot just 2-for-7 from the floor. Brandon Taylor was 1-for-5 from the floor and committed four turnovers against the SFA press, looking flustered down the stretch. Jordan Loveridge added 12 points.

Last season, Stephen F. Austin played pretty poorly for about 30 minutes before storming back to force overtime and, eventually, beat No. 5 VCU in the opening round of the tournament, and it looked, for a stretch, like this was going to be a repeat of that game. As the Lumberjacks started cutting into the Utah, the Utes started getting rattled. There were silly turnovers, there were rushed, cross court passes, and there was a team making every play they needed — with a bit of help; SFA banked in two three-pointers on Thursday night.

But Poeltl had a key layup, hit a pair of critical free throws and blocked a three in the final seconds to help keep SFA at bay.

One thing to keep an eye on for Utah fans: head coach Larry Krystkowiak went to a short bench in the second half, and down the stretch it looked like the Utes were getting tired. With just a 48 hour turnaround for a Round of 32 game against the winner of No. 4 Georgetown and No. 13 Eastern Washington, those tired legs aren’t going to get much time to rest.