Some players seek a completely fresh start when they enter the transfer portal. Not Pelle Larsson. He enjoyed playing in the Pac-12 last season. So when Utah fired head coach Larry Krystkowiak, Larsson quickly jumped on board with the rival Arizona Wildcats.
“I know some leagues are a little bit more muscle and a little more bang. Not as much finesse, I guess,” Larsson said. “The Pac-12 just fits me as a European more, I think.”
Larsson will face his former team at least twice this season—once in Tucson and the other time in Salt Lake City—but he said that’s “not that weird to me.”
“That would be a fun game playing a lot of good friends,” he said.
Larsson, who started 18 of 25 games for the Utes last season, was quietly one of the top freshmen in the Pac-12. The 6-foot-5 Swede averaged 8.2 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.8 assists in 26.6 minutes while shooting 47 percent from the field, 46 percent from 3 and 88 percent from the free throw line.
Utah finished with a losing record but had the No. 31 offense in the country, thanks in large part to Larsson.
He shot the ball so efficiently that his true-shooting percentage, a metric that factors in all three shooting percentages, was 63.1. That would have ranked third-best in the conference—one spot ahead of fellow UA guard Bennedict Mathurin—if Larsson had hoisted enough shots to qualify.
That’s not all he brings to the table.
“I think I bring a little bit of everything,” Larsson said. “Obviously shooting, I showed that last year. Defending. I’ve defended some of the best players in the Pac-12. Just coming off screens. I also played some point last year, making plays for others. So, just being a great teammate and getting guys involved, I would say that would be my strength.”
Larsson should have plenty of opportunities to do that for the Wildcats, who may have to play a lot of small ball because of their lack of frontcourt depth.
“As long as I get put in the right positions to succeed for the team and make great plays, that’s what I’m looking for,” he said. “So if that’s me bringing the ball up or someone else and then getting it later in the offense, to me it doesn’t really matter right now.”
That mentality should fit nicely in Arizona’s new offense. Gonzaga was known for an uptempo, unselfish brand of basketball when Tommy Lloyd was an assistant there.
“I got a great feel from the coaches, and just what they wanted to create here and what he (Lloyd) told me he was bringing from Gonzaga to here,” Larsson said. “And just looking at the roster and the new coaches, it just was a great fit for me.”
Lloyd has been impressed by Larsson in summer workouts so far.
“Pelle had a really good freshman year at Utah and has a high basketball IQ and a tremendous body and it’s a real, real high potential,” Lloyd said. “And the last month’s been great working with him and watching him grow. I think he’s a guy that can play in any program in the country.”