College basketball coaches around the country have been celebrating the life of Rick Majerus, the former Marquette, Ball State, Utah and Saint Louis coach who died Saturday at the age of 64.
“He was one of the best coaches our sport has ever seen from an X’s and O’s standpoint without question,” Kansas University coach Bill Self said Monday on his weekly “Hawk Talk” radio show. “He was a detailed guy. He was a very bright guy.
“He was a tough guy, but a good guy,” added Self, who indicated he’d “been around Rick quite a bit” the past several years.
Self first met Majerus in March of 1999 when Self’s Tulsa team fell to Majerus’ Utah squad, 64-61, in overtime in a Western Athletic Conference postseason tournament game in Las Vegas.
“The league had 16 teams so we didn’t play them in the regular season. We gave them all they wanted in the tournament,” Self said. “After the game, he shook my hand, and he said, ‘I’ll never play you again, ever.’ It was a compliment in his own way. He said, ‘If you ever leave this place, I’ll never play you again.’
“So I got here (KU), and ... he calls out of the blue during finals week at Utah. He comes out and spends four days with us. He left his assistants to run practice (at Utah) because he wanted to watch us practice. We ate a lot of food in those four days,” Self added. The rotund Majerus was known for his appetite.
“He was a pro (at eating),” Self added with a laugh. “There was a wing place on Clinton Parkway that had 12 different sauces. He wanted to go there every meal. I learned a lot from him. I watched him do a clinic one time. I took six or seven things from the clinic that made sense that I had never thought of before. It’s the way he teaches.”
A funeral Mass in honor of Majerus will be held at 11:30 a.m. Saturday at Gesu Catholic Church on Marquette’s campus.
Johnson update: Self, on senior guard Elijah Johnson, who bruised his knee against Saint Louis in the CBE Hall of Fame Classic title game on Nov. 20 in Sprint Center:
“His knee will be fine,” Self said of Johnson, who had nine assists against four turnovers and scored six points with four rebounds while playing 28 minutes in Friday’s 84-78 victory over Oregon State in Sprint Center.
“He is nicked up a bit. He had some fluid in it. I don’t think it’ll be anything that’s structurally wrong at all. We looked at it. There’s nothing there. He got it hit, bruised. It takes awhile to come back from that.
“He has to respond in a way where he does feel a little better. He is not playing any different than he played last year. He’s just not playing like Tyshawn (Taylor) played last year from an explosion standpoint. We’ve got to help him do some things where he can drive the ball more downhill, so to speak, as opposed to side-to-side. I think those are correctable things.”
Withey honored: KU senior center Jeff Withey on Monday was named Big 12 player of the week for the second time in his Jayhawk career. The 7-footer from San Diego recorded the second triple-double in KU history and 13th in Big 12 history eight days ago against San Jose State. Withey had 16 points, 12 rebounds and 12 blocked shots.
The 12 rejections were a Big 12 and school single-game record. Withey also had 17 points, five rebounds and three blocks against Oregon State on Friday in Sprint Center.
Withey’s honor gives KU back-to-back Big 12 Player of the Week honors. Last week, KU senior guard Travis Releford won the award.
KU, which moved up a spot to No. 9 in the AP poll, which was released Monday, will meet Colorado at 1 p.m. Saturday in Allen Fieldhouse.
“Jeff has done a nice job. Jeff has more blocked shots (40) than all but 13 schools in America,” Self said. “Jeff’s forte is blocking shots, but he is scoring the ball better.”
Iowa State guard Will Clyburn was named rookie of the week.
He said it: ESPN’s Andy Katz commented on the Jayhawks in his Monday blog. “I watched Kansas beat Oregon State, and all I could think of was if the Jayhawks ever reach their ceiling, this is a team that could win the national title.”