After missing last week's exhibition game, Michael Doleac made his 1997-98 debut for the University of Utah basketball team Wednesday night at the Huntsman Center, where the Utes cruised past a rag-tag team called the California All-Stars, 79-56.
Eight seconds into the game, the 6-11 center drilled a three-pointer from the top of the key. In less than three minutes, Doleac scored nine points as the Utes took a quick 13-0 lead. Although he ended up playing just 15 minutes on the night, he still led his team in both scoring (13 points) and rebounding (six boards, along with two others).It seemed like a pretty impressive opening performance for Doleac. Pretty impressive to everyone except hard-to-please Ute coach Rick Majerus.
"Doleac's performance reeked of mediocrity tonight," he said. "Everybody on the team has improved. The only guy that has not improved is Doleac. He looked like he was caught in the doldrums. Your senior 260-pound center should play strong and dominate the boards."
Majerus saw a lot of little things that the average fan doesn't see such as no offensive rebounds in the first half, not being in position defensively, etc. But you also have to remember that Majerus has a habit of getting on his best players in an effort to get them motivated. Just ask Keith Van Horn, who could score 38 points and grab 18 rebounds in a game and still get poor-mouthed by his coach.
So how did Doleac react to Majerus' comments?
"He's completely right," Doleac said. "I thought I did a poor job defensively and my rebounding wasn't that great. (Majerus) has every right to be upset about that and I should be upset and I am. I've got to play better than that if we want to have the success we want to have this year."
Doleac has been sick recently and trying to catch up on his studies. That's why he missed the exhibition win over Hungary the week before. He hardly played the second half as Majerus went entirely with freshmen and sophomores the last 15 minutes of the game.
Redshirt freshman Nate Althoff, who will back Doleac up this year, scored 11 points in 12 minutes, while freshman Trace Caton added nine points off the bench on 3-of-4 shooting from three-point range. Andre Miller had a fine all-around game, scoring eight points and getting three rebounds and three assists in a mere 14 minutes.
The Utes shot 56 percent in the first half when they jumped out to a 45-29 lead.
"It's easy to shoot when the game's in control," said Majerus. "I thought one thing we did was we defended pretty well. We also rebounded fairly well and did a good job with the assist-to-turnover ratio. But is that the opposition? I think in some ways it is."
The California All-Stars are a bunch of former college players who have been thrown together for a month to be cannon fodder for college teams around the West. They came into the game 1-9 - with a lone victory over Long Beach State.
"Some people think we should be the Washington Generals," said California coach John Dunn. referring to the team that always plays and gets beat by the Harlem Globetrotters. "We've had nine different lineups in 11 games. It's hard enough as it is without having a new mix every night."
Dunn said Utah is the best team his crew has played, along with Fresno State.
"Andre Miller absolutely killed us tonight, and he played just 10 minutes (actually 14)," he said. "If he would have played the whole game, we would have lost by 40."
Joseph Blair, a former starter at Arizona, led the scoring with 21 points. Former BYU and Granite High player Gary Trost scored nine points.
The Utes, who are ranked 14th and 16th in the two major polls, open the regular season Saturday night at home against Cal State Fullerton before playing at Weber State Wednesday night.