Entering his third season in a Utah uniform, junior forward Timmy Allen knows what it's like to be undervalued and disrespected. After all in each of his three seasons, the Utes have been chosen anywhere from No. 7 to No. 9 in the Pac-12 preseason polls.
But Allen also knows what it's like to prove people and teams wrong — as his freshman season resulted in a third-place finish in the Pac-12.
“I am not surprised,” Allen said when told where the Utes were picked to finish. “They pick us around seven to nine every year. I think my freshman year they picked us ninth or something, and we finished third.”
Allen and the Utes will be out to prove the doubters wrong again this season after the team was picked eighth in the Pac-12 preseason poll. The big difference between this year and last (when the team was picked to finish ninth before concluding the season in eighth place) is that the Utes return seven of their top eight players from last season as well as adding a couple of talented freshmen.
“I have been told that we (are picked) eighth and to me, I look at that, and I say, ‘Well that means our league must be awfully good’,” Utah head coach Larry Krystkowiak said. “Because I like our squad. I like being the arrow rather than the target, the bull’s-eye, I always have. We will play with a little chip on our shoulder. I think our league is going to be darn good.”
After finishing last year 16-15 overall, Utah has a very strong nucleus returning led by Allen, a preseason all-Pac-12 first-team selection. He is coming off an impressive sophomore season in which he was named second-team all-Pac-12 after averaging 17.3 points, 7.3 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game.
While his production drastically rose from his freshman season, Allen's shooting percentages dropped dramatically as he shot 44.1% from the field and 21.1% from three-point territory.
He finished the season with six double-doubles, showcasing all-around play-making ability in games against UCLA (13p, 8a, 7r), BYU (27p, 5r, 5a) and USC (21p, 10r, 3a). But there were also times when Allen struggled from the field, particularly when teams packed the paint against him as his lack of any sort of jumpshot hindered his game towards the end of the season.
Allen is joined by fellow starters Rylan Jones, Alfonso Plummer and Branden Carlson. Add in valuable bench pieces in Riley Battin, Mikael Jantunen and Jaxon Brenchley as well as two big-time freshman in Ian Martinez and Pelle Larsson and things are looking up in Salt Lake City.
“It is nothing for us to talk about,” Allen said. “We know we have something to prove. We know we got the guys to do it. So we are not worried about that type of stuff.”
Martinez and Larsson are two incoming freshman to watch who will make a big impact this season.
Martinez, the No. 59 prospect in the country, is a 6-foot-3 shooting guard who should help fill the void left by recent transfer Both Gach this past offseason. He also has the ability to run the point guard position, sparring incumbent starter Jones.
"We are excited to add a guard like Ian, who has a great combination of athleticism, skill and IQ," Utah head coach Larry Krystkowiak said on the Utes athletic website. "Ian has a had a great couple years of development and continues to improve his physical strength, which will allow him to be an excellent player at Utah."
Larsson is expected to provide instant depth and could challenge for a starting spot at the small forward position — moving Allen to the power forward spot. He's one of the top young players in Europe, and rated as a four-star prospect across multiple recruiting boards.
"Pelle is an outstanding lead guard with great size, versatility and IQ," Krystowiak said. "He shined this summer in the European Championships and solidified himself as one of the premier guards in Europe. We believe his international experience and opportunity to play in the Swedish pro league will help make his transition to the college level smooth."
Plummer is the ultimate breakout candidate for the Utes. This should comes as no surprise considering he finished last season on an absolute tear.
He ended the year by setting a Pac-12 record with 11 made three's in Utah's 71-69 loss to Oregon State in the opening round of the Pac-12 tournament. He averaged 18.8 points per game over his final six games, knocking down 55.8% (29-of-52) of his three point attempts over that span.
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