SALT LAKE CITY — Average attendance at University of Utah men’s basketball games will finish above 10,000 for the first time since the 2005-06 season. The Utes enter Saturday’s home finale against Colorado averaging 10,267 per outing.
“It’s really neat. It’s really neat for our kids, our players,” noted Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak. “I’ve always said that my goal as a coach is to try to have the guys you coach have a similar experience that I had. I loved college and part of that was playing in front of a great crowd.”
Utah’s home attendance has trended upward over the past two seasons — going from an average of 8,394 in 2011-12 to 8,611 in 2012-13 to an increase of 1,656 per game through 19 dates in 2013-14.
“When we walk out for some of these games and have those kind of numbers it really feels good,” Krystkowiak said. “You’re happy for the kids because you know how hard these guys work and how bad they want it. I’m very appreciative of the support we’ve gotten.”
Krystkowiak added the fans are seeing more familiar faces with reduced roster turnover as the program is being re-established. The Utes lose only two seniors — Renan Lenz and Xan Ricketts — from this year’s squad.
Utah is in the midst of its first winning season since 2008-09.
“My immediate goals or thoughts didn’t have much to do with crowds,” Krystkowiak acknowledged. “It was about trying to become competitive and successful, and I think typically crowds are kind of a byproduct of that.
“I think our kids play hard and the people in this state have a pretty good sense for basketball and how it should be played and I think our kids fit the bill for the most part,” he continued. “So we were more focused on the stuff we could control — and kind of in the back of your mind you’re hopeful that people will start showing up and coming through the turnstiles. That’s typically an indication that you’re moving in the right direction.”
SATURDAY’S STARTERS: Krystkowiak said he wasn’t going to divulge his starting lineup for Saturday’s game against Colorado. In last Sunday’s 86-63 win over Arizona State, Dallin Bachynski and Princeton Onwas were inserted as starters.
Bachynski, though, isn’t worried about doing it again. Jeremy Olsen and Renan Lenz are other options at center.
“I really don’t care about starting. It does not matter to me whether Renan starts, J.O. starts, or I start. I like coming in and bringing a little energy, changing the pace of the game a little bit when I come in and honestly I prefer not to start,” Bachynski said. “But I trust coach more than anybody, and if he thinks I should be starting, then I’ll start. If he thinks Renan should, then by all means Renan. And if J.O. is playing well in practice, then he’s definitely going to get the start. So it’s kind of up in the air.”
AN INSPIRATION: Longtime team athletic trainer Trevor Jameson, who began chemotherapy treatments in December, is providing the Utes with plenty of inspiration this season.
“It’s pretty powerful stuff. It puts some things in perspective — for us, the fact that this is a game,” Krystkowiak said. “I think Trevor has given his heart and soul to our program and wants us to do well. It’s kind of a classic example of him putting the team above his own deal. He’s not one to complain and we know he’s going through some hard times.”
Jameson’s situation has brought the team even closer together.
“It’s pretty special to have him be a part of it. He’s just really solid as a person and as a professional in terms of taking care of our guys,” Krystkowiak said. “I think it’s been a little bit galvanizing for all of us to keep some things in perspective.”
Utah basketball attendance
For the first time since 2005-06, the Utah Utes are averaging more than 10,000 fans per game to the Huntsman Center.
2013-14 — 10,267
2012-13 — 8,611
2011-12 — 8,394
2010-11 — 8,422
2009-10 — 9,202
2008-09 — 9,916
2007-08 — 9,979
2006-07 — 9,522
2005-06 — 10,481
Colorado (20-8, 9-6) at Utah (18-9, 7-8)
Saturday, 12 p.m.
TV: Pac-12 Networks