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USD Hopes to Rise to New Heights in Opener at Utah

November 28, 1986|CHRIS ELLO

Hank Egan, the University of San Diego's basketball coach, is hoping his team will be as successful as some say, as the Toreros are one of the favorites to win the West Coast Athletic Conference championship.

But Egan will begin the 1986-87 season in a place where success has been as rare as a 7-footer playing at the Air Force Academy--the Utah Special Events Center. Because of restrictions that limit Academy members to be 6-foot 6-inches or shorter, Egan's Air Force teams were beaten at Utah four straight years from 1981 to 1984.

Tonight, as his third year begins at USD, Egan's team figures to better equipped when it faces the Utes. Tipoff is scheduled for 7:30 in Salt Lake City.

"We always seemed to play them tough when I was with Air Force, but we never came out on top," Egan said. "It's a very tough place to play. The fans love their basketball up there."

A sellout of 15,000 is expected to see Utah in its opener tonight. The Utes are coming off a 20-10 season in which they finished in a first-place tie for the regular season Western Athletic Conference championship. Utah advanced to the NCAA Tournament, where it was defeated by North Carolina in the first round.

Utah's top three scorers from last season--Jerry Stroman (18.0), Manuel Hendrix (15.8) and Kelvin Upshaw (11.8)--have graduated. However, the Utes' best inside player, 6-8 sophomore forward Mitch Smith (6.8 points, 7.6 rebounds), returns.

Unlike in his years at Air Force, Egan will be able to combat Utah's height. Scott Thompson, the Toreros' 7-foot senior center, and Nils Madden, a 6-9 forward, return up front for USD.

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