Calling 7-foot center Jakob Poeltl lengthy is basically overkill, but the Austrian native has all the tools to be a top-tier big man in just his second season in the NCAA. The Utah sophomore is looking to build off of a 2014 campaign where he impressed as a full-time starter.
Poeltl helped the Utes advance to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2009, where they eventually lost to Duke in the Sweet 16.
He started 34-of-35 games and shot 68-percent from the field, which placed him first in the Big-12 and fourth in that nation in that category. Poeltl averaged 9.1 points, 6.8 rebounds and 23.3 minutes per game as he finished fourth on the team in scoring, first in blocks (63) and ranked 11th in the conference in rebounds per game.
His lone struggle was from the free throw stripe where he shot a disappointing 44.4 percent. Poeltl had a chance to turn pro this offseason, but he likely wouldn’t have been anything more than a late first-round pick. With another year under his belt where he can focus on his defense and offensive attack, Poeltl has a chance to be a lottery selection in 2016.
Whether he leaves college for the pros remains to be seen, but Poeltl pinpointed some experiences that he said he believes will help him “develop as a player and get better from it.”
“I just tried to learn from every practice and every game that I got to be on the court,” Poeltl told the Deseret News. “At the start, it was learning a lot from (former Utah center) Dallin Bachynski. I wasn’t used to playing a physical guy like him. He was a lot stronger and heavier than me, so I had to adapt to that and I think I did that. Come game time, I played against a lot of really, really good basketball players in the post like Jahlil Okafor or I played against (Josh) Scott from Colorado, who was really good — experienced guys.”
Perhaps the most important takeaway from Poeltl’s summer was his performance in international play as a member of the Australian national team for the Trentino Cup. He matched up with Lithuanian and Toronto Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas. Poeltl didn’t back down as he generated 27 points and five boards in 28 minutes. He also shot an impressive 11-of-15 from the field.
After leading the Utes in scoring in four games and in rebounding in 18 games as a freshman, head coach Larry Krystkowiak is preaching physical play from Poeltl, who put on 30 pounds since last season ended.
He certainly isn’t your prototypical center since he can shoot so well, but if he can become more effective in the post and boost his free throw numbers, he should be well on his way to a really solid season.
Poeltl is only going to improve for a deep Utah team that finished second in the Pac-12 with a 26-9 overall record and 13-5 output in conference play. It’s scary how good he really can be. Poeltl was named to the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Award watch list and he could very well captured that award if he can just continue to progress as all-around center.
Pay close attention to Poeltl this season. It’s well worth the show.