If you had to be an all-American boy to be an All-America basketball player, Jeff Judkins (above) would be a runaway selection. Charging out of some Jack Armstrong script, he was a prep all-stater in you-know-which-three-sports. Last August he raced halfway around the earth from the World University Games in Bulgaria to marry his high school sweetheart. He is very close to his relatives, no small feat because 94 of them attend his home games. An academic All-America, he still finds time to do a lot of church work. Judkins is loyal, reverent, true and blond. Denny Crum, who coached him in Sofia, took one look at Judkins and proclaimed, "He's almost too nice."
That is of some concern to Utah Coach Jerry Pimm, who says, "I see his unselfishness as basically a strength, but maybe he doesn't look for shots enough." Without looking, Judkins led the Western Athletic Conference in scoring the past two seasons, averaging 20.9 points a game and shooting 56% from the floor with few close-in baskets. One of his specialties is a pull-up 15-foot jumper from the corner. He can also work off screens and picks and has a nifty one-bounce move to the basket. But he is almost as much fun to watch without the ball—faking, blocking out, sliding into openings. He flows like an unfurling ribbon.
Pimm, who has coached five other All-Americas, says the 6'6" Judkins is the most consistent. "He plays as well in practice as in games," Pimm says. "He's a very fine shooter, he rebounds well and he makes fewer than two turnovers a game."
Judkins may have to do even more this season, though the Utes have four regulars back from a team that won the WAC and lost by five points to Nevada-Las Vegas in the second round of the NCAAs. Two of Judkins' fellow starters—Buster Matheney and Greg Deane—were also double-figure scorers, and three freshmen—Tom Chambers, Scott Martin and Judkins' first cousin, Danny Vranes—were Most Valuable Players in their state all-star games. Judkins' brother Jay is another promising freshman. Sounds impressive. Ah, but what a void was left by the graduation of Jeff Jonas. "He was our playmaker and catalyst," says Pimm.
Though Donnie Rice or Michael Grey could start in Jonas' old spot, the ball-handling burden may fall on Judkins, who played some guard this summer. "I've always been the guy who moved without the ball," he says. "Now I've got to pick up some ball-handling and try to help replace Jonas." Says Pimm, "Judkins is the key." As only befits an all-American boy.