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Abatemarco new U. hoop assistant

Over the past 25 years, Tom Abatemarco has experienced an NCAA championship as an assistant coach, been a head coach at three different Division I schools and has also worked in various positions in pro basketball.

Now he's bringing that wealth of experience to the Utah basketball program, where he'll serve as one of Rick Majerus' assistant coaches.

The 52-year-old Abatemarco is excited about his latest move, which he hopes will be a long-standing one.

"This will be exciting for me," said Abatemarco. "Coach Majerus has always had a great program here with great kids. I've always had a lot of respect for coach Majerus. I can learn a lot here."

Majerus has been looking for a veteran assistant to replace Silvey Dominguez, who left for an assistant's job at Wyoming in early July. Utah's other two assistant coaches, Kerry Rupp and Eric Jackson, are in their third and second years, respectively, as assistants.

"Tom Abatemarco is a veteran coach who will be able to bring a former head coach's perspective to our staff," said Majerus in a prepared statement. "I am sure that he will foster a great relationship with the players and be a valuable asset to us on the floor as a teacher.

Additionally, Tom is an experienced recruiter, and his ability to evaluate players, as well as to help us recruit them, will be a tremendous asset for our program. We are excited to have him on board."

A native of New York, Abatemarco was an assistant under several great coaches, including Lou Carnesecca at St. John's, Lefty Driesell at Maryland and Jim Valvano at North Carolina State. He was an assistant for the 1983 N.C. State team that won the NCAA title. Later he was the head coach at Lamar, Drake and Sacramento State.

Abatemarco said he's always preferred the college game, and two years ago he turned down a job as an assistant to Bob Huggins at Cincinnati because of family concerns in Sacramento. But he was able to make the move at this time.

"This is a perfect situation for me," Abatemarco said. "It's a better opportunity and fit for me. I intend to stay here as long as possible."

Abatemarco strongly disputed a published local report that said he decided to join Utah because of "lingering questions about his job status" in the Sacramento Kings organization. Besides being an assistant coach for the Sacramento Monarchs WNBA team, Abatemarco also worked as a broadcaster and in basketball camps for the Kings.

"That had no bearing on my decision whatsoever," he said. "There was no uncertainty in Sacramento. The Maloof brothers (Joe and Gavin) had guaranteed me a job, and I would have been making a lot more money with the three or four things I did there. But I see great possibilities here."

Earlier this month, Michael Kane replaced Mike Schneider as the director of basketball operations. Scott Garson, who filled in as assistant on an interim basis, will remain as the video coordinator and administrative assistant. The Utes officially open practice Oct. 18.

In other Ute basketball news, another high school player has made a verbal commitment to attend Utah.

Jake Schmidt, a 6-foot-8 250-pound forward from Thermopolis, Wyo., told Ute coaches he would sign a letter of intent later this fall.

Schmidt wasn't recruited by a lot of schools because he was injured at the start of his junior year at Thermopolis High. However, he returned and averaged 17 points and nine rebounds and helped his team to the AAA state title.

Recruiting analyst Tracy Pierson wrote that Schmidt "has decent athleticism for his size, nimble feet, a nice scoring touch around the basket and a very nice outside jumper."

Schmidt joins Jermaine Calvin, a 5-10 point guard from Tempe, Ariz., and Brian Anderson, a 6-8 forward from Lamar, Colo., as players who have verbally committed to signing with Utah in November.


E-mail: sor@desnews.com