He’s lost 20 pounds, doing some conditioning things for us this fall that he hadn’t been able to accomplish last fall. We had some real positive meetings, he and I did, in the spring and the summer, just about the fact that this is his last year. Don’t have any regrets because you’re not in condition. —Larry Krystkowiak, Utah basketball head coach
SALT LAKE CITY — Renan Lenz’s teammates don’t respect him because he’s the team's only senior.
The other members of the University of Utah basketball team respect him because he has used hard work to transform himself from just another name on the roster to a possible starter.
“It’s unbelievable,” said Utah head coach Larry Krystkowiak. “More than anything, it’s the commitment he’s had to getting himself in shape. He’s lost 20 pounds, doing some conditioning things for us this fall that he hadn’t been able to accomplish last fall. We had some real positive meetings, he and I did, in the spring and the summer, just about the fact that this is his last year. Don’t have any regrets because you’re not in condition.”
Lenz, who came to the United States from Brazil so he could play basketball and earn a college education, may have had trouble adjusting to the rigors of a program like Utah’s after playing two years at Arizona Western University.
“Part of it is the fact that he’s a junior college player,” said Krystkowiak. “It’s about halfway through their junior year, sometimes even their senior year, before you feel like you’ve got them. There is a learning curve for them.” The changes began with a commitment to physical conditioning, but they're apparent in everything he does.
“He’s playing with a lot more confidence,” Krystkowiak said. “His body has changed, and consequently his energy level, his bounce on the floor, has changed. He looks like a different player.”
His leadership ability comes from his commitment and new-found discipline.
“He’s in here early for practice,” Krystkowiak said. “You don’t have to tell him anything twice. He’s a great teammate, and we’re all pulling for him. Everyone can look at him and say, ‘Man, let’s do it for Renan.’ Seeing the sense of urgency that he has ... inspired some of our guys. Here’s a guy who really wants it, and he’s taking a lot of steps to have a successful year. I think it’s an inspiration for everybody.”
Lenz said he just tries to be an example to his younger teammates.
“It’s a lot of work,” he said of being the team’s only senior. “You’ve got to try to be an example to everybody, to see how good they can get in four years. I just try to work as hard as anybody else.”
INTERNATIONAL SQUAD: This year’s group features four players from foreign countries.
“It’s nice,” said Lenz. “It’s people from all over the world — all these different countries coming together.”
He said there is a stark, almost indescribable difference between his hometown and his life in Salt Lake City.
“It’s crazy,” he said smiling. “Just a whole other world — so different.”
Utah's four foreign players hail from Germany, Brazil, Serbia and Canada.
“It wasn’t so much that I chose him,” said Krystkowiak. “The league chose him. He’s a good representative for us. ... I’d love to go and have a senior represent us, but at the same time, English is not Renan’s top language. ... Jordan will do a fine job for us. It’s going to be fun.”
INJURY SITUATION: An NCAA rules changes allowed the Utes to start practicing earlier, and Krystkowiak believes that’s a good thing. Especially when it comes to the bumps and bruises that always accompany preparing for a season.
“We’ve got a couple of guys dinged up a little bit,” he said. “We’ve had a couple of guys — foot aching, knee swelling. I think the change in the format has kind of given us the opportunity to be wise and rest some of those guys.”
Loveridge, for example, was back at practice last Thursday after taking a couple of days off to rest a sore knee.
“I don’t think he’s limited at all or he wouldn’t be out there,” Krystkowiak said. “It was just a precautionary two-day break. I completely trust our training staff, and they’re not going to turn him loose until he’s ready to go.”
Meanwhile, junior forward Marko Kovacevic will be out at least five weeks with a broken bone in his wrist.