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Oh yeah, there is a basketball game Saturday

Who'd of thought? The Utes kick off their 2008-09 season this afternoon when they host Southwest Baptist University. I've never heard of it and I would have thought the university was somewhere in the southwest, not Missouri, which is where the school is actually located. 

So what is SBU? Well it's a small Baptist college of about 3,000 students located in Bolivar, Missouri. Their athletic program is called the Bearcats and they're a member of the MIAA, which sounds like some covert government agency, but it's actually the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association. They're a Division-II program.

The Bearcats are coming off a fairly successful season in 2008, as they finished the year 22-8, losing to Tarleton State in the second round of the D-II tournament. There were no D-1 opponents on last year's schedule for SBU, though this year they did take on Southern Illinois University in an exhibition game, losing 79-87. 

SBU enters this season ranked 12th in the NABC Division II Pre-Season coaches poll and return most of their talent from last season. That includes Junior Matt Rogers, who last season was named as the MIAA Defensive Player of the Year. 

Utah kicks off their second season under Jim Boylen, who took over the struggling program last year and guided them to the CBI Tournament. In an exhibition game last week, the Utes defeated Grand Valley State 59-44. Like the Laker program they defeated in exhibition, the Bearcats probably won't put much of a scare into the Utes, so we really won't get an idea of how good Utah is until Tuesday, when they host UW-Green Bay. 

Anyway, sorry to interrupt the football talk, but if you have time, head on down to the Huntsman Center around 2:00 and catch the Runnin' Utes as they kick off their season. 

I should also note five players have signed their National Letter of Intent to play for the Utes. Here's a quick rundown thanks to the official site.

Shawn Glover - Wing, 6-7, 185
Cedar Hill, Texas
Cedar Hill High School
Put up 18.1 points and grabbed three rebounds per game as a junior ... named Cedar Hill's Offensive Player of the Year and overall team MVP ... two-year captain and three-year varsity starter ... first-team All-District selection as a junior ... named to the All-Tournament team at the Fort Worth tournament ... strong academic career with a GPA of 3.5.

Coach Boylen:
"Shawn is a big, ball-handling point guard/wing who is a product of a great basketball program. His seven-foot wingspan and shooting ability fit our philosophy of finding players with length and ball-skills, and will offer versatility at both ends of the floor. Shawn is one of several of this year's signees who is very strong academically, which is important to our program."

Marshall Henderson - Guard, 6-2, 175
Hurst, Texas
LD Bell High School

Averaged 24.7 points, 5.0 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 4.1 steals per game as a junior ... went 110-of-296 (.372) from three-point range ... owns the LD Bell record for three-point field goals made with more than 300 ... on pace to finish as one of the top three scorers in school history ... two-time All-State and three-time All-Region selection ... two-time District MVP (freshman and junior years) and District Offensive MVP as a sophomore ... honor roll student throughout high school.

Coach Boylen:
"Marshall embodies the competitive spirit and toughness that we strive for in this program. He will bring shooting prowess and the ability to score from the guard position to our team. A basketball coach's son and a great student, Marshall plays with a high level of intelligence."

Jeremy Olsen - Forward, 6-11, 220
Lawrenceville, Ga.
Collins Hill High School

Averaged 15.1 points and 10.2 rebounds per game as a junior ... scored 15 points per game as a sophomore ... is already Collins Hill's career leader in rebounding and blocked shots ... is on pace to break the school's scoring record ... a preseason Super Six selection for Gwinnett County ... two-year All-Region 7 selection in class 5A during sophomore and junior years ... a Street and Smith All-American honorable mention choice ... team MVP as a junior and a three-year captain ... outstanding academically with a 4.0 career GPA ... National Honor Society member ... named CHHS World History Student of the Year as a sophomore ... on pace to graduate in the top 10% of a class with more than 1,000 students.

Coach Boylen:
"Jeremy is a versatile big man who impacts both ends of the floor. He can score on the box or shoot from the perimeter. Jeremy has a great combination of size and skill along with the defensive mindset we look for in this program. Jeremy is also an outstanding student with a remarkable academic background."

Matt Read - Forward, 6-9, 220
Weatherford, Texas
Weatherford High School
(Collin County Community College)
 Currently enrolled at Collin County Community College ... through four games is averaging 11.5 points, eight rebounds and three assists per game ... shooting 57% from the floor and 66% from the free-throw line ... attended the Jerry Mullens JuCo camp this summer for the top 120 junior college players in the country ... was rated No. 2 coming out of the camp ... prior to Collins County CC, played as a freshman at Texas-Arlington ... saw action in 28 games, making seven starts ... averaged 2.7 points and 2.0 rebounds per game.

Coach Boylen:
"Matt will give us size and versatility at the `4' and, like Olsen, has the ability to play inside and out. Matt was rated as the second-best Junior College player at the Jerry Mullens JuCo camp over the summer, and I feel he will be a great fit for our style of play. Having played a year of Div- I basketball as a freshman at Texas-Arlington as well, he will add experience to our front line. Matt is another of the players we signed with a great academic record."

Jay Watkins - Wing, 6-6, 200
Memphis, Tenn.
Hamilton High School
(College of Southern Idaho)

Currently enrolled at the College of Southern Idaho ... leads the 3-0 Golden Eagles in scoring (22 ppg) and minutes (35.3 mpg) and is third in rebounding (7.0 rpg)... prior to CSI, was a starter at the University of San Francisco as a freshman ... named to the West Coast Conference All-Freshmen Team ... prior to USF, started all four years at Hamilton High School (Memphis, Tenn.) ... led Hamilton to a state championship his senior year ... team went undefeated that year ... earned state MVP honors and was a McDonald's All-American nominee.

Coach Boylen:
"Jay will add athleticism and competitiveness to our team. He brings physical toughness and size to the wing position. Jay is a proven Div.-I player who started as a freshman at USF and was named to the All-Freshman team in the West Coast Conference." 

Go Utes, hopefully they start preseason 1-0!