At halftime of this past week's Highland-Cyprus basketball game, former Rams star Jeff Judkins had his basketball jersey No. 34 retired.
The current BYU women's head coach was clearly touched by the ceremony. The former Ute choked back tears as he addressed the crowd in the gym that he used to play in.
"This is very special to me to have that number up there," Judkins told the crowd. "I'm very honored I've had a lot of wonderful memories in this building."
Highland alumni wanted to honor Judkins for a lifetime of athletic accomplishments and brought the idea to Highland principal Paul Schulte.
"The legacy he's left with Highland is exemplary," Schulte said.
Judkins went on to a stellar career at the University of Utah from 1974-78. He was a part of a historic victory over Kentucky at Rupp Arena. Former Utes broadcaster Bill Marcroft saw almost every game Judkins played at Utah and many he played at Highland.
"Juddy is unique," Marcroft said. "You can really see what players are like when you put a microphone in their face. He was always the most honest."
Also in attendance for the ceremony was legendary Highland coach Larry Maxwell.
The former head coach won five state titles in his 33 seasons at Highland. Maxwell recalled that Judkins had a tough time driving. The former Rams star was great at driving to the basket but just couldn't drive a car.
"He used to run into trees," Maxwell said. "Jeff was a great man and person to be around."
Despite Maxwell's five state titles, the two never won a championship together. To this day, Judkins says losing to Provo in the 1974 semifinals was one of the toughest defeats of his career.
"In high school, you can never make that up," Judkins said. "We lost just two games that year, but losing to Provo in the semifinal game was the hardest loss of my life."
What took Maxwell by surprise that season was seeing Judkins going to Utah. Maxwell was convinced that his star player would sign with BYU and play for Frank Arnold. Judkins never did play for the Cougars. Instead he signed with Utah and coach Jerry Pimm. Marcroft says of all the Utah players he's seen over the years, nobody played with the synchronicity of Jeff Jonas and Jeff Judkins.
Marcroft says Judkins is one of the top 10 athletes to ever come out of Utah. He was all-state in football, basketball and baseball. Drafted by the Boston Celtics in 1978, Judkins played for five seasons in the NBA, including a short stint with the Utah Jazz.
In a final salute, Judkins recognized his 1974 teammates, some of whom were in attendance.
"I really want to thank my teammates. Without their hard work, none of this would have happened," Judkins said.The former Ute assistant joined volleyball star Logan Tom as the school's only other athlete to have a number retired at Highland.
E-mail: [email protected]