At long last, once-troubled basketball nomad Silas Mills will make his debut tonight in an NCAA game in front of Utah coach Rick Majerus, the fellow Wisconsinite who got Mills to Utah in 1991 from his native Milwaukee.

While it appears Mills has matured and corrected the turbulent life that eased him on down the road from the U. to three junior colleges and back to Utah, he could give Majerus and his 6-2 Utes one more headache tonight.Mills is top scorer (18 ppg) and ball thief (2.3 steals) and No. 2 rebounder for 3-1 Utah State. He and fellow junior Eric Franson (12.3 rpg, 17.8 ppg) are 44 percent of the scoring, 50 percent of the rebounding for USU. They are the Nos. 4/5 scorers in the Big West Conference. Mills leads the BWC in shot percentage , Franson in rebounds.

Utah State hosts the Utes at 7 p.m. in the Smith Spectrum. It will be aired by KJZZ-Ch. 14, but a crowd of 7,793 puts USU over 2.5 million in attendance in the 25th season of Spectrum play. School's out, so tickets are plentiful.

A Prop. 42 student in '91-92 at Utah, Mills was dismissed in September '92 by Majerus for disciplinary reasons. He was deemed selfish and dismissed by a junior-college coach. But in December 1993 Mills was still dreaming of playing this season for Utah. Then the NCAA determined Mills could have only one year to play at Utah because, while attending Salt Lake Community College, he lived with a former Ute player. The NCAA ruled that was to Utah's advantage in re-recruiting Mills out of SLCC. Any other recruiting school could have him for two years; he chose Utah State.

For Aggie coach Larry Eustachy, Mills has reportedly been a willing student with a C average. On the court, he's a model for team play.

Mills and Majerus say there's no special emotion in this first matchup.

Majerus wishes Mills well, except tonight, and says USU has "the best player in their conference in Mills."

Mills says, "It's going to be fun to play against my old team - which I never played for. I like Majerus, and he likes me. He tried to help me out. He has seen the changes in my life. We both tried, but things just weren't happening at the U."

There is more tonight than Mills and Majerus.

View Comments

"They are very deep and talented," says Majerus, "and have an unbelievable array of athletes combined with good bodies and good shooting skills."

Eustachy calls these Utes "Majerus's most-talented team in history. They have two NBA players for sure (6-9 soph Keith Van Horn, 20 ppg, 7.7 rpg; 6-5 junior Brandon Jessie, 14.1, 5.3)." He says soph guard Terry Preston (7.9, 2.6) is effective, and the return of junior Mark Rydalch (who played for the first time Tuesday following spring knee surgery) improves Utah.

Eustachy sees a physical night with fouls the key. "In spite of their youth, they've got good strength," he says. Franson is key to USU's ruggedness; his foul trouble led to its only loss.

USU should return 7-0 Nate Wickizer, who's played little because of an ankle sprain. Guard Covington Cormier is expected back but hasn't practiced in nine days due to a family emergency. Utah's 6-11 freshman Michael Doleac (8.8 ppg, 4.3 rpg) is probable tonight after missing Tuesday with an ankle sprain.

Join the Conversation
Looking for comments?
Find comments in their new home! Click the buttons at the top or within the article to view them — or use the button below for quick access.