SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak believes Jakob Poeltl is the perfect example of why many college players should buck the one-and-done trend and return for their sophomore seasons.
The Utah center announced Wednesday that he is leaving school to enter the NBA draft after a spectacular second year in which he improved his game in virtually every way.
“He’s a poster child for what it’s like to stick around for another year,” Krystkowiak said. “He’s certainly far more ready today than he would have been a year ago. I don’t know how much meat is left on the bone for Jakob in this college process. He’s being projected right now as a top-10 pick.”
Poeltl made his plans known during a news conference at the Utah basketball practice facility with several teammates, athletic director Chris Hill and the coaching staff in attendance. The 7-foot Austrian truly enjoyed the college experience, making the decision more difficult, but said this is the next step in his basketball progression. He has yet to hire an agent.
“I don’t regret anything about coming here, about staying a second year,” said Poeltl. “I really wanted to stay for two more years, but I think it’s a necessary step for me. At the end of the day it was a decision that was logical to me.”
Poeltl was named a second-team All-American and was the Pac-12 Player of the Year. He ranked No. 2 in the Pac-12 with 17.2 points per game, No. 4 with 9.1 rebounds per game and No. 1 with a 64.6 shooting percentage. Poeltl was the first Ute to surpass 600 points in a single season since Andrew Bogut in 2004-05.
The Utes advanced to the Sweet 16 during his freshman year and Poeltl returned despite being expected to be a first-round pick. He is now projected as a lottery pick.
Poeltl was honored at the end of the season as the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Center of the Year and the NABC’s Pete Newell Big Man of the Year
“He’s one of the truly elite big guys in the country,” ESPN analyst Jay Bilas told The Associated Press in February. “He’s getting stronger and he’s going to continue to get stronger. He’s still a young player. So, where he is now isn’t where he’s ultimately going to be. And where he is now is awfully good.”
Poeltl is a classic back-to-the-basket center. He’s a good and willing passer and can run up and down the floor and has a 36- to 38-inch vertical. He’ll need to get stronger and can be bothered by physical play.
One of his most positive traits is that he has steadily improved every year. He adapted well as a freshman coming from Austria and improved his numbers across the board as a sophomore. His free-throw shooting, for example, went from 44.4 percent as a freshman to 68.9 his second season. Poeltl also played with better pace his sophomore campaign. He’s said he learns from experience and from playing against better players.
“I don’t think we knew exactly what we had our hands on when he came over here,” Krystkowiak said.
The question will be can Poeltl excel on the next level as a player who primarily operates around the paint or will he need to extend his shooting range? Much of that depends on the system he lands in, which will depend on how the lottery shakes out. But the latest trend in the NBA values spacing and shooting, even from traditionally post positions. Poeltl hopes to land with a team that fits his skill set, but also plans to work on his jumper.
“(It’s) something that still needs a lot of work,” Poeltl said about his shooting. “It’s inconsistent. I think I can be a good shooter and at times I am a decent shooter, especially midrange. … You’ve just got to get the reps in. This year, I focused on different stuff.”
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