With a healthier Rick Majerus back on the court, plus a number of veteran players, the University of Utah basketball team will begin practice for the 1990-91 season on Monday.
The Utes return two starters in Josh Grant and Walter Watts. Grant, who often played as the team's sixth man a year ago, led the team in scoring and rebounding and was named to the all-district and all-conference second team last year. Watts averaged 10.9 points and 5.4 points per game.A number of other players return from last year's team, among them forward Craig Rydalch, guard Jimmy Soto, center Larry Cain and guard Phil Dixon, who averaged 10.2 points per game during the first six games of last year before an accident sidelined him for the remainder of his freshman season.
The Utes' depth will be improved significatly this year with the addition of several players who redshirted last year. The Utes are counting heavily on Barry Howard, a 6-foot-5 transfer from Washington, and sophomore guards Byron Wilson and Tyrone Tate.
Four new players will join the Utes this season: Paul Afeaki, a 6-10 transfer from Snow College who averaged 20 points and 12 rebounds a game two years ago for the Baders; M'Kay McGrath, a 6-5 forward who averaged 15 points and nine rebounds last season for Mesa JC; Anthony Williams, a 5-11 point guard who led College of Southern Idaho to a 35-3 record last year; and Brian Vandehey, a 6-3 guard from Augusta, Wisc., who averaged 24 points per game as a high shool senior.
The Utes finished with a 16-14 record last year. Majerus' first season as Utah's head coach ended after six games when he underwent heart bypass surgery. He was replaced by assistant coach Joe Cravens, who returns to his assistant job this season.
The Utes open the season with games against Athletes in Action (Nov. 7) and the Belgium national team (Nov. 14). Their non-conference schedule includes a road game against Michigan and home dates against Oregon and Wichita State.