After a long, arduous basketball season, the last thing in the world Josh Grant wants is to play basketball. No more hoops for a while. He's had enough, thank you. Why, since the end of the season, he hasn't touched a basketball.
Uh, well, there was this one time. "The other night I was going crazy," he says. "My body was freaking out. I was going through withdrawal. So I went down to the (family) gym and played with my brother."But other than that, Grant says he has avoided basketball. It's time for a break. He's avoiding hoops.
Well, except for the other day. He was at a Salt Lake mall and spotted one of those basketball arcade games with the too-small hoop. No sense in resisting. "I played that for a while," he says.
But otherwise, forget it. No more hoops. "I don't want to get burned out," says Grant.
Then Grant, the University of Utah's star forward, details his off-season schedule. Let's see, tryouts with the U.S. Pan American Team. A summer exhibition tour of Europe with the Utes. A summer camp or two. Summer rec league. Another trip to the Utah Summer Games as a member of Team Grant (with seven boys in the family, the Grants have a starting lineup and a bench). Frequent visits to his family and church gyms - "my summer playground."
No wonder Grant says he will enforce a layoff for the next month or so. "The summer is going to be very full," he says.
Grant, whose weight slipped 10 pounds (to 208) late in the season, hopes to devote his off-season - what there is of it - to weight-lifting and weight-gaining programs to prepare for his senior season. Certainly, much will be expected of the Utes and Grant next year, based on what they accomplished this season.
Talk about a tough act to follow. Led by Grant, the one acknowledged star on a team of role players, the Utes produced a 30-4 record, won the Western Athletic Conference championship, claimed two victories in the NCAA tournament and advanced to the semifinals of the West Regional (a.k.a. the Sweet 16).
For his part, Grant, who was voted WAC Player of the Year, led the Utes in scoring (17.5 points per game), rebounding (8.0), blocked shots (41 total), steals minutes played (29.9 per game) and free throw shooting (82.5 percent), and was second in assists and three-point shooting.
Grant was never better than in the NCAA tournament. Against South Alabama, he totaled 22 points, 11 rebounds and 4 assists. In a double overtime victory over Michigan State, he tallied 29 points, 10 rebounds, 4 assists and 5 steals, and outdueled MSU All-American Steve Smith in the process. Against defending national champion Nevada-Las Vegas, Grant had 17 points, 10 rebounds and 3 assists.
All of which helped to make Grant the March Deseret News Athlete of the Month. Deja vu? Grant was also the December Deseret News Athlete of the Month.
"Talk about somebody who plays like (Grant), and Jimmy Jackson out of Ohio State is one," said Michigan State coach Jud Heathcote. "But here's a guy 6-10, and he can do so many different things."
One NBA scout, who requested anonymity, said, "(Grant) is a big guy who can pass, shoot and rebound. The end result of his basketball ability goes way beyond his athleticism - sort of what (Larry) Bird is."
Earlier this season, Don Haskins, the long-time coach at Texas-El Paso, said of Grant, "If anything, I thought he was soft, but he's tough. What he is is NBA-caliber, and he will play in the NBA."
Reflecting on the Utes' surprising season, Grant says, "It was a lot of fun. People are very aware of what we accomplished. They've been very kind. All the players are recognized more now. We're all young. We needed that first year so next year we'll have that experience."
Given the Utes' sudden and unexpected success this season, few can resist looking ahead to next season. After all, they were young and inexperienced and still to climb to 10th in the final national polls. They lose only one player (starting center Walter Watts) to graduation. Does it stand to reason that the Utes will be even better next season?
"I get nervous when people say that," says Grant. "How can you be better really? We might be a better team and lose more games. You never know how things will turn out."
Still, the prospects for the Utes - and Grant - are promising. Grant, who certainly helped his bid for All-American honors next season with his NCAA showing this month, already has 1,434 career points, leaving him well short of Billy McGill's school career record of 2,321 points, but within reach of runnerup Mike Newlin's 1,849 points. Grant also has 720 career rebounds, leaving him well behind McGill's 1,106 boards, but he could overtake Danny Vranes (951) for third place on the all-time school list.
Who knows, by this time next year, Grant probably will be accepting more honors, including another Deseret News Athlete of the Month award.