Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes
SALT LAKE CITY — Gavin Baxter has called it a career.
The 6-foot-9 forward from Provo, who transferred to Utah after four seasons at hometown school BYU, announced on Thursday that he was medically retiring from the game of basketball.
"I'm very grateful for the chance Utah gave me but due to my injury history, I can't compete the way I want to," Baxter said in a statement. "I want to thank my teammates and coaches for believing in me, and I'm grateful for all the time and energy they invested in me. Basketball has been my life for a long time but it's time to move on to the next chapter."
Baxter suffered three season-ending injuries in his final three seasons at BYU before following assistant coach Chris Burgess to Utah in an effort to try to play one more year. After nine months of recovery from an ACL tear, Baxter was officially cleared to play before the 2022-23 season started and played in seven games sparingly.
But Baxter never got back to full mobility and couldn't sustain his time on the court.
"I have nothing but love for Gavin; he's been a good friend of mine," Utah center Branden Carlson said. "It's a hard decision for him to make, but he feels like it's the best choice for him right now. We support him 100% with that. We're gonna miss him a ton on this team. He brought a lot of energy and a great voice to practice and to the games and everything, so we're gonna miss him deeply, but we wish him the best."
In his seven games at Utah, Baxter averaged 1.4 points and 1.6 rebounds in about eight minutes per game. For his career, Baxter played in 54 games and averaged 4.2 points and 2.6 rebounds.
Utah head coach Craig Smith welcomed in Baxter with the hopes that he could return to form and he could utilize two bigs in his lineup at the same time, but understood Baxter's return, if at all, was a tough climb.
"I think the world or Gavin, our guys do, too," Utah head coach Craig Smith said Thursday night. "He was a great — I mean, he was outstanding for us. Obviously, he's had a rough go of it medically. I mean, how many guys go through what he's had to go through and have basically three season-ending years in school because of that? My heart goes out to him. He's a wonderful person and he has a great voice."
After growing up in the shadow of BYU, wearing red didn't come easy for Baxter, but he wanted to have a clean slate in an effort to return back to the court. So he followed Burgess to Utah and worked to get back onto the court.
"Obviously, it was pretty unexpected," Baxter said just after transferring to Utah. "If I took a snapshot of my life however many years ago and saw myself wearing red, playing at Utah, I think it's kind of crazy, but I think everything happens for a reason.
"Me being a lifelong Cougar fan, grew up in Provo, you kind of realize that it is a rivalry and all that, but at the end of the day, it's just another team up the road, and it's given me the opportunity to play another year. If anything, I'm just grateful."
Utah fans welcomed Baxter and hoped to see him on the court, too.