SALT LAKE CITY — Utah basketball signee Josh Hearlihy was asked to give up the scholarship offer he accepted in November. The request, however, wasn't something that was suddenly thrust upon the 6-foot-7 senior from Harvard-Westlake High School in California.
Although he declined to discuss specifics, Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak noted that the coaching staff has been in conversations with the Hearlihy family about the situation since February and did not make the request on the eve of the spring signing period, which began Wednesday.
Even so, a released statement from Hearlihy to the Los Angeles Times made the rounds on a day when the Utes added point guard Brandon Taylor of Pacific Hills (Calif.) High School to the mix.
"I was very excited about going to Utah when I signed my Letter of Intent in November. However, the coaching staff has reconsidered their commitment to me and has asked to be released from their obligation," Hearlihy said. "I turned down scholarship offers and stopped exploring other options when I signed."
Hearlihy, who missed half of his senior season with injuries reportedly related to "growing too quickly," will likely enroll in a prep school and re-enter the recruiting process for 2012-13.
"Given the situation at Utah, I'm concerned about putting myself in an environment where I'm not wanted," Hearlihy continued. "It is still my dream to play college basketball, and I will continue to work hard every day to make that dream a reality."
After playing every game and averaging 14.5 points and 5.4 rebounds as a junior on a team that went 29-5, Hearlihy was limited to 14 games (not playing from Dec. 14-Jan. 28) as a senior — netting 12.6 points and 4.4 rebounds per outing.
The Deseret News has learned that Hearlihy's past medical history factored into the situation. Krystkowiak, however, declined to comment on the matter.
Citing a desire not to harm Hearlihy and his ability to land in a good spot, Krystkowiak also refused to respond to the player's public comments. He did acknowledge, however, that the two sides are conversing in an effort to work everything out.
Hearlihy's departure reduces the Utes' November signing class to West Jordan star Jordan Loveridge (6-6, 225), Southern Utah transfer Dallin Bachynski (6-11, 230), returning LDS Church missionary Jeremy Olsen (6-10, 235) and Georgia high school product Justin Seymour (6-3, 195).
The newest addition is Taylor, a 5-foot-10, 150-pounder out of West Hollywood, Calif.
"Brandon has a really good feel for the game of basketball. He is a tremendous shooter and a natural leader. He's a great floor general, with the ability to score and distribute the basketball," Krystkowiak said in a released statement. "Brandon's teammates flock to him and love to play with him, and if there is one person on the floor who you want to have that quality, it's your point guard."
Taylor averaged 19.8 points and 7.5 assists as a senior and was named CIF Division 4A Player of the Year. He also earned MVP honors from the Alpha League, National Prep Classic and Torrey Pines Tournament.
All of the new additions are expected to enroll at Utah in time to join the team on a planned foreign tour this summer — allowing the revamped roster the opportunity to play games and practice together before the fall.
The newcomers join a squad that has undergone a major overhaul for the second consecutive year.
Center Jason Washburn and swingman Cedric Martin are the only major contributors returning from the 2011-12 that went 6-25 in Krystkowiak's first season at the helm and the program's first campaign in the Pac-12.
David Foster, a 7-foot-3 senior center who missed last season with a foot injury, is also planning to be back. The trio are joined by a pair of junior transfers — point guard Glen Dean (Eastern Washington) and shooting guard Aaron Dotson (LSU) who sat out last year as per NCAA rules. Both are eligible to play for the Utes this season.
Utah still has two scholarships open for 2012-13.
"We're still beating the pavement and trying to see what's out there," Krystkowiak said.
The Utes, he added, are actively recruiting to complete the roster.
"We're looking for a perimeter player and a big," Krystkowiak said. "And we're excited about being involved with some kids and trying to shore it up as soon as possible."
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