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December 11, 2012There's a saying in sports, and in its simplicity, it is perhaps the highest compliment one can pay an athlete. Coaches say it all the time: he's the same guy every day.
For Utah basketball, freshman Jordan Loveridge is that guy.
Not only is he that guy, but he's the guy doing it under the radar, in keeping with his low-key personality and rare lack of desire to be the high-profile star on the team.
In most cases, he'll take over a game in short spurts, but come the end of the game its usually a surprise that he has as many points as he has, or that he was the game's leading scorer or rebounder.
While Loveridge has scored less in certain games, one gets the feeling that is because he understands the match-ups and game plan enough to realize that things are set up better for his teammates in certain situations.
For example, the Idaho State game found Loveridge with just seven points, but 12 rebounds and four assists, on a night where Bachynski enjoyed his season and career high 22 points against the Bengals.
In other scenarios where he hasn't rebounded as well, as in the BYU game Saturday, he led the team in scoring with 14 points, while teammates Dallin Bachynski, Jason Washburn and Cedric Martin cleaned up on the boards with nine, seven and six rebounds respectively.
With the exception of Utah's loss to Sacramento State where the entire team struggled, early in Loveridge's career its almost as if he's developed a sixth sense. That sense allows him to simply look around, see what his team needs him to do and fill that particular void that night.
For Loveridge, whether it be his defense, steals, blocks or assists, if one statistical area of his game is lacking one night, he makes up for it in other areas. In whatever capacity, Loveridge has been filling key voids in all nines, regardless of whether or not his team is winning, or losing.
"If we're up twenty, down twenty or if it's a close game, I pretty much just always try to play hard," Loveridge said matter-of-factly.
As an athlete, the will to compete comes naturally to Loveridge, but that isn't the only thing that drives him.
"People would always look at me because I'm from Utah, and say this and that. They would always label Utah guys as not as good, not as fast. It was always how I wasn't this or I wasn't that. They said I wasn't as good," Loveridge described his past basketball experiences.
In a sense then, Loveridge has spent much of his basketball career disproving stereotypes and doubters, which, thankfully for Utah, has made him the player he is today.
"Having that experience gave me a chip on my shoulder that I have just always had because of how people outside the state thought of me. So no matter who I went up against, whatever name was on the front, or the back of their jersey, I didn't care," Loveridge described his driving force. "I just decided a long time ago that I was going to always go out and leave it all out on the floor every game. I decide every time I step on the court that I'm going to play as hard as I can every minute I'm on the floor."
His head coach agreed with that assessment early in the season while discussing Loveridge's ceiling and the team's expectations for him this season.
"Well, Jordan is a guy who we have high expectations for, just like we have for everyone we brought in to play on this team. He's a freshman, so he's still learning some things, and he'll continue learning some things," Krystkowiak appraised. "The exciting thing is that he's already doing some positive things early, and we'll build on his considerable talents. The most encouraging thing for me right now is his effort, and his motor. If you have that, you can build everything else around that. He's a guy who goes hard on every single play. That's what stands out most to me right now."
Averaging 12.3 ppg and seven rebounds per game, Loveridge has scored in double figures in six out of nine games, and has eight or more rebounds in six out of nine games, with double-doubles so far on the season.
Loveridge was the Utes' leading scorer in three different contests, and was one of the top two scorers in four and top three in six games.
In rebounding, Loveridge has been the Utes' leading rebounder in five different games, and top two in six. Prior to the BYU game, Loveridge was the sixth in rebounding in the Pac-12 conference with an 8.1 rpg average. After his only game of the season without a rebound, he remains ranked 13th in the conference with a 7.2 rpg average.
All of that to say, Loveridge is indeed the same guy every day, be it in practice or games.
"It's just who I try to be every day I'm on the court," Loveridge referred to his effort, which is paying huge dividends for his team, and statistically. "I don't know how to play any other way but my hardest. There's no mental adjustment, or me having to work myself up to do it. It's just who I am. I want to win."