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Since reclaiming the coaching reins from assistant Joe Cravens this season, Majerus and his Utes have been on a hot streak. At week's end they had won 14 straight games after knocking off Wyoming 90-83 and Air Force 57-47.
Utah has done all this with fairly ordinary talent. The closest thing it has to a star is 6'10" junior forward Josh Grant, 23, who spent two years on a Mormon mission to England and through last week led the Utes with averages of 17.3 points and 7.4 rebounds per game.
Majerus has a knack for taking teams with little talent and turning them around. Ball State had a 9-18 record before he took over in 1987-88, and one season later the Cardinals went 29-3 and advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament.
Now that Majerus has shed some of those extra pounds, he's seeing to it that starting center Walter Watts does the same. Watts, a 6'8" senior, had ballooned to 318 pounds last spring and came back in the fall weighing 285. He was told by Majerus that he couldn't play unless he weighed 260 or less on game day. So far, Watts hasn't failed to make weight.
And Majerus says he isn't likely to return to his former size. "I'm embarrassed by the fact that I had to have surgery, that I let it get to that point," he says. "But the operation saved my life."
WHERE THE SCORERS ARE
Itta Bena, Miss., was the scene of a typical Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) shoot-out last Saturday night. The second-and seventh-leading scorers in the nation (through games of Jan. 14) got together for a chuck-and-duck duel, and when it was over, Mississippi Valley State's Alphonso Ford (No. 2) had pumped in 49 points—37 of them in the second half—and Alabama State's Steve Rogers (No. 7) had scored 34 in Mississippi Valley's 105-89 victory.
It seems as if every night features a high-scoring duel in the SWAC, a conference that has quietly brought us three of the nation's top 10 scorers. Ford, a 6'2" sophomore guard, was averaging 33.4 points a game at week's end, and Rogers, a 6'5" junior guard, was averaging 28.9. And the two don't even play for the conference's most prolific team, Southern, which has the nation's third-leading scorer, 6'4" senior guard Bobby Phills (31.4).
Ford is probably the most explosive of the three guards. His second-half outburst against Alabama State was business as usual. "I really didn't know how many points I had in the second half," says Ford. "Sometimes I just get this feeling like everything I put up is going in."
Phills is the most unlikely gunner of the group. A center in high school, he was converted first to small forward and then to guard by Southern coach Ben Jobe. "All I knew were post-up moves when I got here," says Phills, whose father, Bobby Phills Sr., is dean of Southern's agriculture school. "But I got comfortable facing the basket pretty quick. Then, when coach Jobe gave me a green light to shoot three-pointers this year, I really got comfortable." Evidently. Through Sunday, Phills was making an average of 5.2 three-pointers a game, tops in the nation.