At least one Utah basketball player scored a victory in recent days.
Less than 24 hours after a "scared" Utah team failed to secure a victory over Oregon State in a somewhat abysmal showing, current forward Mikael Jantunen helped his home nation get a big-time victory.
Getting the start in Finland's FIBA EuroBasket 2022 Qualifier on Friday morning, Jantunen finished with 11 points and four rebounds in their 92-84 victory over Switzerland.
Jantunen was extremely effective by finishing 5-of-7 from the field.
Jantunen's ability to leave the program during its stretch run towards the postseason was made possible due to a conversation he had with head coach Larry Krystkowiak when he was recruited.
“This goes back to when we originally recruited Miki,” Krystkowiak said. “It was always going to be a promise made on my part that he could take part in all the (Finnish) national team events. … Any other year, it doesn’t have that impact. There have been a lot of discussions and it kinda came down to the wire with the direction that we went.”
It wasn't an easy decision for Jantunen to leave the Utes, especially after their recent three-game-winning streak with him in the lineup was followed by a two-game losing streak with him gone.
“It wasn’t an easy decision and I never want to miss any games,” Jantunen in a school press release. “At the same time, I’m going to play for my country and when they called saying they needed me, I felt like I had to go and I want to go help us qualify for the tournament. I’ve been playing with the national team since I was a teenager and it’s been a dream of mine to play for the senior national team and represent my country.”
The good news is that according to a report by Josh Newman of the Salt Lake Tribune, Jantunen could be back much sooner than expected.
Serbia defeated Georgia later Friday, securing Finland's spot for EuroBasket 2022. This will allow Jantunen to miss the next qualifier and arrive back in Salt Lake City on Saturday night.
But Utah fans should temper expectations about when he will be allowed to return to the court. According to CDC recommendations, passengers traveling to the states from Georgia and Finland should undergo a seven-day quarantine.
With the Utes scheduled for home games against UCLA on Thursday, Feb. 25 and USC on Saturday, Feb. 27, there's an outside chance Jantunen returns for them both if he's cleared ahead of the recommendation time.
Utah is set to play Oregon State during the week or March 1, which means that Jantunen should get at least one game in prior to the start of the Pac-12 tournament on Wednesday, March 10.
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