Men’s basketball: Jakob Poeltl named Pac-12 Player of the Year

_DSC5701 Emily Juchau

After averaging 17.6 points per game, the second most in the Pac-12, and having the highest field goal percentage — at 66 percent — in the conference, Jakob Poeltl was awarded 2016 Pac-12 Player of the Year award, announced on the Pac-12 Sports Report show on Monday, March 7.

Many people expected Poeltl to enter the NBA Draft after last season, so the fact that Poeltl was able to improve so much within that span is impressive, to say the least. In an age of one-and-done athletes, head coach Larry Krystkowiak considers Poeltl the poster-child on how returning for a second year at the collegiate level really does benefit a player.

He’s been one of the more consistent players for the Utes this season, and they really needed him this last weekend against Colorado. He had an impressive stat line of 16 points and 13 rebounds — his 14th double-double on the year — while adding five blocks, as well.

“He played his tail off Saturday night. We didn’t have that kind of effort from everybody,” Krystkowiak said. “He was engaged, blocked some shots. Did a lot against a real physical Colorado team that was trying to stop him.”

Poeltl was also named to the All-Pac-12 first team on Monday and was an Honorable Mention selection for the conference’s All-Defensive team after recording a total of 50 blocks and averaging 9.1 rebounds per game.

While Krystkowiak gives a lot of credit to Poeltl and what he has been able to do for the team this season, he will always consider it a team game and knows Poeltl wouldn’t have received any of these awards without the support of his teammates. Plenty of other guys on the team have stepped up when they needed to, and Krystkowiak wants to see how Poeltl will respond in the upcoming tournaments.

“[Poeltl] was pretty darn impressive,” Krystkowiak said. “I think he’s really grown and matured as a player. It’s a little bit daunting when you think where we’d be without him. It’s important that we finish strong and now’s not the time to be patting anyone on the back. It’s not going to get any easier when we get to Vegas for Jakob, or anybody else.”

A couple of other guys from Utah who received awards include seniors Brandon Taylor and Jordan Loveridge. Taylor was named to the All-Pac-12 Defensive Team and is a All-Pac-12 Honorable Mention selection after averaging 3.9 assists and 1.5 steals per game, the fourth most in the Pac-12. Adding to that, he was named the Pac-12 Scholar Athlete of the Year with a 3.4 GPA.

Fellow senior Loveridge also cracked the All-Pac-12 Team Honorable Mention selection list. He made a total of 79 three-pointers this year, the third most in the conference, and averaged 11.8 points per game.

Although awards are always nice to receive, Krystkowiak hopes these three players don’t pay too much attention to them. They are still going after some bigger goals, one of which includes winning the Pac-12 Tournament this weekend in Las Vegas.

“The challenge still lies ahead of us,” Krystkowiak said. “Everybody knows I’m not excited about patting anyone on the back. This couldn’t have been done without the collective effort of our whole team. It’s a good time to start thinking about the importance of staying together.”