The University of Utah basketball team received both good news and bad news on Monday. First, the Utes learned that they had moved up to No. 8 in the national rankings and that Coach Rick Majerus and two of his players, Josh Grant and Walter Watts, had been honored by the Western Athletic Conference.
But later in the day they learned something else: Watts, a second-team All-WAC center, has a knee injury that could prevent him from playing in this week's WAC post-season tournament."Doctors drained blood from Walt's knee on Monday," said Majerus late last night. "We won't know until (Tuesday) if he can play. But the fact that he wasn't able to practice (Monday) isn't a good sign. The doctor said the fact that he found blood on the knee wasn't a good sign, either. He said he might scope the knee. If he does, then Walt would miss the WAC tournament for sure and be back for the NCAA tournament."
Watts, Utah's lone senior, is the team's second leading scorer (average: 10.2 points per game) and rebounder
The loss of Watts comes at a position where the Utes are most vulnerable. Watts' backup, Paul Afeaki, is still recovering from a gunshot wound, and the team's other two centers are inexperienced. Afeaki says he will be able to play this week, but Majerus disagrees.
"Paul won't be able to play in the WAC tournament," said Majerus. "The doctor said he could practice (Monday), but he said he couldn't have contact. That's like saying you can write a story, but you can't use adjectives."
If Afeaki and Watts are unable to play this week, the Utes' only true centers would be junior Larry Cain, who has played in only four WAC games all season and averages 1.1 points per game, and walk-on Sean Mooney, who averages .2 points per game.
Asked how he would compensate for the loss of Watts and Afeaki, Majerus said, "I don't know yet. Part of it will depend on which team we play (in the WAC tournament)."