All-America candidate Brandon Jessie won't suit up for Utah on Saturday at Kemper Arena.
That's a shame, says Kansas coach Roy Williams, who at one time recruited Jessie, a 6-foot-4 senior from Huntington Beach, Calif., who averaged 16.4 points his junior season.
"It's scary to be honest with you. People are going to say, 'This is just ol' Roy saying this'...but I'd much rather have him there because then we'd know what we're facing,'' Williams said.
"If Brandon plays, they are better and more athletic, but at least if he plays you know about them."
Jessie, a first-team all-WAC pick, will miss the Utes' first seven games for accepting benefits from an agent. The No. 8-rated Utes still have 6-9 Keith Van Horn, another All-America candidate.
"I've said before, when you lose somebody for a game, everybody else sort of bands together and tries to do more to make up for the loss," Williams said. "Over a seven-game stretch, it will be more difficult, but they're always going to pull together the first one."
Cover boy: Roy Williams has received this week's copy of Sports Illustrated, the one with KU guard Jacque Vaughn on the cover -- the one that ranks the Jayhawks No. 1 in the land.
"To say you are on the cover of Sports Illustrated... they've kept tabs of how many times Michael Jordan and Muhammad Ali have been on there. I'm happy for Jacque right there," Williams said. "Does it have any more significance, being ranked No. 1 by Sports Illustrated? No."
Vaughn says he's honored.
"I'm very enthused about it. It's one thing you want as a kid, to see your face on that magazine," he said. "For that to come true, it's a delight."
Williams said he was misquoted in the issue.
"I never said Paul Pierce was the finest freshman athlete I have recruited. I've never even thought that," Williams said. "Also the last line, 'Maybe we can look like a champion at the end of the year,' I never said that. But you guys know journalism. Why let the facts get in the way of a good story?" Williams said with a chuckle.
Williams has said Pierce, "may be the best scorer out of high school I've recruited."
More SI talk: Sports Illustrated recently named its 12 toughest places to play college basketball. Allen Fieldhouse wasn't included.
"If you let all coaches experience every place, they'd all pick Allen Fieldhouse as the best place," Williams said. "As far as toughest to play, I'd say those who have been in there would say we're at least in the top 12. That shocked me."
KU's coach said SI also had a "mix-up on one of the (coach's) diagrams," in the preview issue that termed Williams the "X-man" for his X and O work on defense.
Unique coach: Utah coach Rick Majerus, 47, single and admittedly overweight, has lived in Salt Lake City's University Park Hotel since he took the Utah job seven seasons ago.
"He's a breath of fresh air. A little bit of a goofball, but in a good way," Williams said. "I would struggle living in a hotel, but it fits with Rick. He'd probably struggle with some of the things I do, too."
Like KU, Utah rarely uses zone defense. "We have somewhat similar philosophies," Williams said.
Happy Thanksgiving: The Jayhawks were to practice today, then head to Williams' house for Thanksgiving dinner at 3 p.m. "Wanda starts cooking tonight," coach Williams said, referring to wife Wanda Williams. "We'll have a good time there."
The Jayhawks won't practice in Kemper Arena Friday. They'll practice here, then spend Friday night at a KC hotel. Saturday's game will tip at 3 p.m., following a 12:15 battle between Purdue and Memphis.
How good are they? The coach of Australia's Victorian All-Stars coach says KU has the best team he's seen in 30 years. He made that statement Monday after KU waxed the Aussies, 116-44.
"I asked him if he had too much to drink," Williams said. "I look good too when I'm playing somebody who doesn't want to play. Half their guys didn't want to play. They wanted to have a couple ales and get back on the plane and go home," he said, laughing.