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UNC has strong hoops pedigree; Utah doesn’t

SHARE UNC has strong hoops pedigree; Utah doesn’t

Take a look at the roster of North Carolina and you'll find a player who was the MVP of the Kansas-Missouri All-Star Game, another who played in both the East-West and the Capital all-star games and a 7-footer who was selected to play for several prestigious national all-star teams.

And those are the players at the end of the bench, guys you've never heard of such as Brad Frederick, Michael Brooker and Brendan Haywood.The Tar Heels' roster is full of players with extensive resumes, players who could have gone almost anywhere in the country but were good enough to be chosen to play for North Carolina with one of the richest traditions in the country.

Then take a look at Utah and pedigrees of their players.

Utah coach Rick Majerus has often joked that "no kid in America goes to sleep at night dreaming of becoming a Ute." Majerus has his own way of selecting players, doing things like watching how they conduct themselves in huddles or pre-game warmups. Or perhaps he'll take a someone because he likes the player's mother.

While his methods may be unique, Majerus has assembled a collection of players that has blended together to reach the Final Four and play North Carolina Saturday at 6 p.m. at the Alamodome.

Majerus first saw center Michael Doleac in a Southern California summer league after his sophomore year in high school. Doleac wasn't even a starter at that point of his life and wasn't recruited by any other schools. When Majerus surprised him with a scholarship at his camp, Doleac was astonished by the offer - but took it.

Other Utes have similar stories.

Drew Hansen's other choices out of high school were basketball powers Army and Brown. Andre Miller had to choose between Cal State Fullerton and University of San Diego.

Backup Jordie McTavish came out of Salmon Arm, Canada, spurning offers from schools such as Gonzaga of the West Coast Conference, while Utah's sixth man, Trace Caton, didn't really look anywhere else but Utah after his brother, Ben, had a good experience as a Ute for two years.

That's quite a contrast from North Carolina, whose roster is full of high school all-Americans and players who participated in numerous national all-star games.

Vince Carter played for a national all-star team in 1995 and was selected to USA Basketball's junior team, which played in the World Championships in 1995. Antawn Jamison was North Carolina's Mr. Basketball and played in the 1995 East-West all-star game. Point guard Ed Cota played on the U.S. Junior National Select Team and a national all-star team.

Utah? Its two highest-recruited players don't even start. Britton Johnsen was a McDonald's all-American who had a chance to go to a couple of Big East schools. David Jackson was a third-team Parade all-American, who had a chance to attend Arizona or other name programs.

But look at the Utes' starters.

Hansen played for Tooele High, and although he made all-state, he wasn't even one of the best players in Utah coming out of high school. Majerus had had him in camp and offered him a scholarship after watching him play a game with a couple of his friends.

Miller was ignored by most of the California schools, and Majerus wasn't overly impressed when he first saw him play. But he was talked into staying for a night session of a summer league and changed his mind. One of the things that turned him on to Miller was his terrific mother and the love she displayed toward her son.

Majerus discovered Hanno Mottola in Finland and although other schools also recruited him, Mottola chose Utah mainly because Majerus made a personal trip to watch him play.

Jensen was a top player in Utah his senior year, garnering the Deseret News Mr. Basketball trophy. But he didn't have a lot of out-of-state offers and basically chose Utah over BYU.

Majerus discovered Doleac with the help of a friend and offered him a scholarship because he "had a high upside to him."

Doleac was nothing close to a star player ("I was always so bad, I could only improve," he said), but besides his size, Majerus saw good hands and a great attitude.

"I loved his spirit on the bench," he said. "At camp, Mike showed up for every early session at 6 a.m. He was enthusiastic and had a high teachability quotient."

At this point, just two games away from an NCAA title, it really doesn't matter where all the players came from.

As Doleac put it, "We're not looking at them as North Carolina. They're players just like we are."

UTE NOTES: The Utah basketball team left Salt Lake about an hour later than expected Wednesday because the Ute practice went long (surprise, surprise). The team took Jon Huntsman's private jet, arrived at around 9 p.m. local time and went straight to dinner before checking into the Sheraton Hotel . . . Stanford and North Carolina both flew in Wednesday night, while Kentucky was scheduled to fly in Thursday . . . All of the teams will participate in an "open" practice Friday. Utah's will be from 1 to 1:45 p.m. local time in the Alamodome. If the Utes win, their practice Sunday will be closed . . . Monday's championship game will tip off at 7:16 p.m. MST . . . In four NCAA games, the Utes have held their opponents to 62.5 points and 39 percent field goal shooting.