Runnin' Ute freshman guard Justin Seymour may earn his first collegiate start Friday night in Utah's first game of the season.
Injuries to key players have opened the door for the talented shooting guard who hails from Georgia. ESPNU ranked Seymour inside the top 60 shooting guards in the nation, and his list of high school accolades reads like something out of a movie.
A multi-sport athlete, Seymour also played high school football, and was the starting varsity quarterback as a sophomore before ultimately giving up the sport to focus on the hardwood.
The 6-foot-3 talent nearly averaged in double-double figures as a junior, with 20.8 ppg, 7.1 rebounds per game and 3.3 assists per game. His stellar performance saw him eclipse the 1,000 point mark following his junior season, and led his AAU team, the Georgia Stars in scoring for two years.
All of that to say - Seymour can shoot.
Now, along with every other Ute, Seymour says his main focus is defense.
"I'm really confident in my shot, so I think the main thing I want to work on is defense. Coach is always telling us that's what wins games, and as a team, that's our focus," Seymour explained. "I feel like if I can improve my defense, I'll be a more well-rounded player. That's what we're all trying to do here. Coach is trying to make us complete players."
While Seymour is confident in his offensive game, he acknowledges that he still wants to improve on aspects other than shooting, such as penetration and creating shots for his teammates.
"I think I'm pretty good at driving on guys, but looking to pass out of that situation to open things up for other guys just makes it harder to defend," he appraised. "Looking out for that other option is something that I think I'm good at, but maybe I'm not as aware of the pass as I could be."
With improvements to make as a freshman, Seymour is willing and coach-able, and says he's looking forward to taking the steps necessary to become the best collegiate player he can be, and hopefully move on to the next level.
"I love the staff here, they're teaching us all of the time and they expect a lot. They really push us, in every way; conditioning, execution and just in everything," Seymour explained. "I really like the staff, and that was part of why I chose Utah, but once I was here, it's been better than I thought. I like working hard, and pushing myself, so to have them push me like that is huge. I already feel like I'm a better player than when I got here."
Seymour has huge upside, as do many talented high school stars as they embark on their collegiate careers. Without the appropriate drive, mind-set and work ethic though, many will drop off the radar and not reach their respective pinnacles of potential.
Watching Seymour in the early, opening weeks of his collegiate career, it certainly appears that he has the work ethic and want-to necessary to have a chance to meet his own potential.
"I came here ready to work, and to do whatever it takes to get better and help this team. The better player I can become, the better that is for my team," Seymour said. "So I'm just approaching it like that. I'm just working as hard as I can and trying to get better every single day. If I do that, I think I can achieve everything."
Seymour's attitude and character falls in line with the other kids in the Ute basketball program, which is no coincidence.
"I think we're trying to build a culture here, certainly, where it takes having the right type of character in players," said Ute assistant coach Tommy Connor. "We have seven kind of pillars that we're trying to build the program on, and so we absolutely try to recruit kids that we think can fit into that."
Indeed, Krystkowiak and his staff thought long and hard when deciding on the core principles upon which Utah basketball would be built. The seven core principles are: Pride, Hard Work, Selflessness, Compete, Commitment, Enthusiasm and Truth.
On paper, they're words that sound good, and they look great on a gym wall, too. Unless those principles are executed, such principles are just that: words.
Many programs are all about the words, even some of the most successful ones. However, if a program isn't built the right way, it ultimately will falter or pay the price.
Very early in the Krystkowiak era, it appears that Utah Basketball is being built the right way, brick by brick, on strong principle. If Seymour, or any one of his Runnin' Ute teammates, is any indicator of the future of Utah Basketball, the outlook is bright, and the foundation strong.