SALT LAKE CITY — On a Monday podcast with college basketball insider Jon Rothstein, new Utah coach Craig Smith said he wants to make the Utes perennial NCAA Tournament contenders.
"Our goal is to to get to the NCAA Tournament," Smith told Rothstein on the College Hoops Today podcast. "How are we going to do it? I don't know yet. That road will take its course."
The one-time NAIA championship contender and South Dakota coach knows a thing or two about qualifying for the NCAA Tournament; he did so in three straight seasons at Utah State, making two overall appearances in three years (the other was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic).
So how does Smith bring the Runnin' Utes back to the Big Dance for the first time since making back-to-back appearances in 2015 and 2016?
By bringing in what he knows.
Marco Anthony became the second Utah State transfer to commit to the Utes since Smith was hired, pledging his commitment Tuesday via social media. The Runnin' Utes have already added Anthony to the 2020-21 men's basketball roster.
"We are pumped to have Marco join the Runnin' Utes family," Smith said in a university statement. "Marco has great character and loves to be in the gym. At 6-5 and 220 pounds, Marco is a big physical player that brings a ton of versatility on both sides of the ball. In addition to his 41" vertical, he has great skill and can guard anyone on the floor.
"Marco understands how to win at a high level and brings a wealth of experience in the NCAA Tournament to our program."
Anthony, whose collegiate career began at Virginia, joins former Aggie teammate Rollie Worster on the Hill. The San Antonio native was a role player on the 2018-19 Cavaliers squad that won a national championship before moving to Logan, where he averaged 10.0 points, 4.8 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game in leading the Aggies to 20-9 record last year following a mandatory sit-out season due to then-NCAA transfer rules.
Under new NCAA rules permitting a one-time free transfer waiver, Anthony would be immediately eligible for the Utes in 2020-21. That would mark his third team in four years.
Recruiting out of the transfer portal makes sense for Smith, whose roster at Utah lost a number of key position players. Timmy Allen has moved on to Texas, Alfonso Plummer has committed to Illinois, and Mikael Jantunen most recently opted to continue his basketball career professionally — the Finnish international is expected to play in his native Europe next year.
Later Tuesday, former Utah riser Ian Martinez committed to Maryland, where the 6-foot-3, 183-pound spark plug became the commitment out of the portal for the Terps following a freshman season where he played in all 25 games for the Runnin' Utes and averaged 5.2 points on 49.5% shooting.
In addition to Anthony and Worster, the Utes have also earned commitments from former UNLV and South Dakota State standout David Jenkins Jr. and Cincinnati's Gabe Madsen, a one-time prep star in Smith's native state of Minnesota.
They'll add to the returning roster that includes Swedish guard Pelle Larson, former Olympus star Rylan Jones, and senior forward Riley Battin, among others.
"I really like a lot of the pieces that are in our program," Smith said. "But with the transfer portal, and guys leaving, you've got to develop some depth, certainly. I think we had 6-7 scholarships available 2 1/2 weeks ago; that's half your team. We had work to do — experience matters."