Someday, surely, Rick Majerus will check out. Someday the Utah
coach will depart from the fifth-floor suite at University Park
Hotel, the suite that he has called home ever since he took the
Ute job in 1989. Someday he will tire of card-keys and one-ounce
shampoo bottles. And when that day comes, just imagine the look
on the face of the front-desk clerk on duty.
"Uh, Coach, about this room-service bill...."
"Everybody who recruits against us brings up the hotel-room
issue," says Majerus, who insists he feels right at home in Salt
Lake City. "'He's not going to stay there,' that's what they
That would appear to be wishful thinking on the part of
Majerus's WAC colleagues. Entering his seventh year on the Hill,
Majerus ranks in the top half of WAC coaches in tenure and, with
a 124-44 record since he began coaching in Mountain Standard
Time, at the top of the list in winning percentage. This season
Majerus, who was not even good enough to make his own high
school basketball team back in Milwaukee, has the talent to put
more distance between himself and the rest of the WAC pack.
"We should be good," says Majerus, "but our chance for a great
team is in London."
He is referring to 6'9" forward Alex Jensen, "our Bobby Jones,"
who departed last summer for a two-year Mormon mission. Jensen's
6.1 rebounds per game will be missed, but Majerus still has the
two best players in the WAC in junior forward Keith Van Horn
and senior swingman Brandon Jessie.
The 6'9" Van Horn (page 84) led the WAC in scoring (21.9 ppg)
and rebounding (10.1) in conference games last season, the first
sophomore to do that. BYU coach Roger Reid calls Van Horn, who
also averaged 86% from the free throw line, "the best player to
come along in our league in years."
Jessie, whose father, Ron, made a living catching passes for the
Los Angeles Rams, prefers intercepting them. He had 33 steals
last season. A 6'5" juco transfer, Jessie scored 23 points his
first night in a Ute uniform, helping to upset then No. 9 Indiana.
"Brandon's a great rebounder, too," says Majerus. "He's going to
have to pick up a lot of the slack from Alex's departure." But
what of Van Horn? Majerus, mindful of Van Horn's prodigious
natural talent and hopeful that he will get the chance to coach
him for another season after this one, is loath to praise his
team headliner or even mention him, for that matter.
As for Jensen, Majerus attended his going-away party and was,
naturally enough, everyone's favorite guest: "I brought eight
pies from my favorite bakery," says Majerus. "Usually you go to
a Mormon social and everyone has brought a Jell-O mold."
Upon arriving in London, Jensen sent his coach a note that read,
"Thanks for the pies. See you in two years."
Alex Jensen knows something. As regards the head coaching
position at Utah and a certain fifth-floor suite, there is no
COLOR PHOTO: RICHARD MACKSON Jessie has shown a real feel for the steal. [Brandon Jessie]
THE DATA BOX
Coach: Rick Majerus
Career record: 224-96 (11 seasons)
Record at Utah: 124-44 (6 seasons)
1994-95 record: 28-6 (final ranking: 22nd)
WAC record: 15-3 (first)
SF *Keith Van Horn, 6'9", Jr.
WAC's best could be nation's best
PF Michael Doleac, 6'11", Soph.
Member WAC's All-Newcomer team
C *Ben Melmeth, 6'10", Soph.
Australian must improve down under boards
SG *Brandon Jessie, 6'5", Sr.
Averaged 21 ppg in WAC tournament
PG *Terry Preston, 5'11", Jr.
Alternates with sixth man Mark Rydalch
Nov. 25 vs. Kansas
Last season's opener was upset of Indiana
Nov. 29 at Texas
One of five road games vs. NCAA tourney teams
Dec. 21 at Wake Forest
National TV showcases Van Horn vs. Tim Duncan
Jan. 2 vs. Brigham Young
Utah perfect (15-0) at home last season
March 2 at Brigham Young
Should determine WAC regular-season champ