UTES' WILLIS OUT FOR SEASON: Although the season is still two months away, the Utah basketball team has already lost a key player for the season.

Shane Willis, a transfer from the University of Hawaii who was expected to back up point guard Andre Miller, tore the ACL in his left knee in a pickup game earlier this week and will be lost for the season.According to U. basketball trainer Gerald Fischer, Willis will be out "seven to 10 months," which means he will miss the entire 1998-99 season.

The 6-foot, 200-pound Willis played a year at Hawaii before going on an LDS mission. He is originally from Redondo Beach, Calif., where he was an all-state, all-CIF player. Known as an excellent defensive player, Willis transferred to Utah following his mission and was being counted on to be Miller's main backup.

Other point guards on the Utes' squad are freshman Ben Heusser, a 6-foot, 165-pounder from Preston, Idaho and Adam Sharp, a 6-2 redshirt freshman from Alta High School, who is also a returned missionary.

- Mike Sorensen

WEST STAYING WITH LAKERS? Executive vice president Jerry West will remain with the Los Angeles Lakers, the Riverside Press Enterprise reported today.

Quoting sources, the newspaper said West has agreed to a five-year contract worth $3.5 million per year with the NBA team.

West wouldn't comment, except to say, ". . . You're probably going to see me around here for a while."

The newspaper quoted two sources who spoke on the condition that they not be identified that West met with owner Jerry Buss and cut the deal last week after West returned from a vacation in West Virginia.