When I was twelve years old I attended a one week session of the Lute Olson Basketball Camp. Like any Tucson boy following the spring of 1997, I’d essentially arrived at the land of Milk and Honey; ecstatic to be playing games on the same floor as Bibby, Dickerson, Simon, and even Bramlett.
I was the stout kid, oversized and undercoordinated, but goodness I was excited to be there. Over the span of that one week camp, I managed to garner myself an award. Yes, I was awarded Most Improved which is kind of like giving me the “You-were-so-bad-on-Monday-but-managed-not-to-hurt-yourself-or-anyone-else-by-Friday Award.” I’d go on to play baseball.
The sample set for my awarding was limited, centered on an established base whether fair or not. The eyeball test set the precedent for, let’s call it, room for improvement.
NOTE: The same session in which I won the Most Improved Award I was also awarded the Best Attitude Award. I was the ultimate fat kid.
Well just a season ago – heck, just eight months ago – the Utah Utes and Coach Krystowiak, were a six-win team which included a win over San Diego Christian. At one point during that campaign, the Utes were considering opening the roster to the student body. To call 2011-12 a learning year is a disservice to learning years.
Again, we can call it, room for improvement.
That season solidified the Runnin’ Utes’ place as conference fat kids – devoid of expectations and engendering our sympathies – a lot bit like me at camp.
Well this may still be the case – they have yet to play a BCS opponent and have not played a ranked opponent since the 2010-11 season – but the Utes have quietly surpassed last season’s abysmal win total and are looking increasingly good doing so. The crown jewel of their recruiting class, Jordan Loveridge, has been terrific (12/7/2) on the wing-hybrid while Jared DuBois has been a pleasant scoring boost in his first and only year in Salt Lake. Additionally, Dallin Bachynski is following in the surprising footsteps of his brother, Jordan of ASU, and giving the Utes further front court depth (senior Jason Washburn is off to a slow start). As a team, they’ve jumped more than 100 spots up the ORtg and DRtg rankings and are in the top 50 of making and defending 2-point buckets.
Suffice to say, the Utes are beginning to fill the improvement space.
It’s still early, equatable to a week long basketball camp, and so it’s fair to call the kids who began as the undisputed chubsters with nothing to lose exactly that. But I recognize the progress, applaud the effort, and appreciate the wins. Improvement doesn’t always have to be measured in progress from rock bottom but the Utes have shown a decisive change from one season ago. Just run the math:
6-wins in 31 games < 7-wins in 10 games.
For such, and all things considered, I toss an empathetic arm around the collective Ute shoulder and offer my own Most Improved Award. Keep it up.