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Not from THAT family, but not taken for Grant-ed

SHARE Not from THAT family, but not taken for Grant-ed

Let's get this out of the way right off the bat — Chris Grant is NOT related to former Ute great Josh Grant, whose older brothers played for Utah State.

Chris Grant is the walk-on for the Ute basketball team who has seen action in four straight games after hardly playing the first month of the season.

He started against UNLV last week and played five solid minutes. In each of the past two games against Wyoming and Colorado State, he has displayed his outside shooting touch by sinking 3-pointers during mop-up time.

"I didn't expect to make the team or get much playing time, so everything that has happened has been really positive," said Grant.

Grant had to make the Ute team during open tryouts a week into the season, and though he isn't likely to be a mainstay on this year's team, he is making his mark.

After scoring six points in 16 minutes against Whitworth, Grant earned a starting berth for Utah's first Mountain West Conference game in place of regular Marc Jackson, who had missed two practices when his baby was born.

Grant heard his name announced in front of some 10,000 fans at the Huntsman Center and found himself guarding Romel Beck, one of the top 3-point shooters in the nation.

"That was so much fun, such a rush for me," Grant said.

Grant has impressed the Ute coaches with his hustle and defensive ability, but he has also proved he can shoot. He sank 4-of-5 free throws against Whitworth and coolly drained 3-pointers in the wins over Wyoming and Colorado State.

Like the other Grants, Chris attended East High School, where he was the team's star player back in 2000-01 under Kerry Rupp. Even though he averaged nearly 20 points a game, he got little attention because the team wasn't good enough to make it to the state tournament.

He was going to play for Westminster College out of high school but decided to go on an LDS mission. After two years in the West Indies, he returned a year ago and started playing a lot of ball.

Grant found he was a little bigger and stronger and after playing in rec leagues against the likes of former Ute Jeff Johnsen was encouraged to try out for the Utes.

In an hour tryout with about 20 others, Grant caught coach Ray Giacoletti's eye, and the rest is history.

"He has a great feel for the game," Giacoletti said. "He's been a pleasure and a joy to be around."

SAME OL' RECORD: While Utah's 15-3 record to date is pretty impressive, it isn't that uncommon. In fact, it's the most common record after 18 games for the Utes for the past several years.

Since 1993, the Utes have been 15-3 seven times, including last season. The next most common record over the past dozen years is 14-4 (three times). The other records were 18-0 in 1997-98 (the Final Four year), 11-7 in 2000-01 (the Dick Hunsaker year) and 10-8 in 1993-94 (the Ed Johnson-Darroll Wright year).

The best finish among the 15-3 teams was the 1996-97 Keith Van Horn team that won 14 straight before losing to Kentucky in the Elite Eight. The worst finish came in 2001-02, when the Utes went 6-6 the rest of the way.

Last year, the Utes were also 15-3 but lost consecutive road games at New Mexico and Air Force, which were the last two games Rick Majerus coached at Utah.

One thing each of the 15-3 teams had in common — each went to the NCAA tournament.

STATS & MORE: Ute center Andrew Bogut has moved up to a tie for first in the nation in rebounding with none other than former Ute Lance Allred, who plays for Weber State. Both average 11.9 boards per game. Bogut also ranks 10th in the nation in field goal percentage (62.4 percent) and 28th in scoring at 19.4 ppg . . . Thanks in large part to Bogut, the Utes rank third in the nation in both field goal percentage (52.2 percent) and rebounding margin (11.3). Utah also ranks fifth in fewest personal fouls (13.8 pg), ninth in scoring defense (57.8 ppg) and 24th in scoring margin (13.9) . . . The Utes have finally cracked the "others receiving votes" category in the major polls. The Utes are 30th in the coaches poll and 33rd in the AP poll . . . Utah has moved up to No. 35 in the CollegeRPI.com rankings, which are supposed to mirror the NCAA committee rankings. That puts the Utes in prime position for an at-large NCAA berth . . . Just think how good Tim Drisdom could be if he played at Colorado State's Moby Gym every game. After scoring 24 points there last year on 4-of-6 3-pointers, Drisdom sank all four 3-point tries Monday night at Moby . . . The 2004 Fiesta Bowl-winning Utah football team will be honored at halftime of Saturday's game (1 p.m.) with New Mexico.

E-mail: sor@desnews.com