Match made in Lope heaven: Grandy Glaze, GCU
(Editor’s note: This story is from the May 2016 issue of GCU Today Magazine. To view the digital version of the magazine, click here.)
Story by Rick Vacek
Photos by Darryl Webb
GCU Today Magazine
They had a deal. Grandy Glaze would bring his muscle and energy to the Grand Canyon University men’s basketball team, and coach Dan Majerle would give him the opportunity he craved — to improve on his career scoring average of three points a game.
It is hard to imagine a more symbiotic relationship in college basketball this season. Or a more successful one.
After transferring to GCU for his final year of college eligibility, Glaze averaged 14 points a game, including one in which he scored 29. He led the Western Athletic Conference in field goal percentage (59.6) and was second in rebounding (8.8 per game). He had 14 double-doubles (double-digit totals in two categories, in his case points and rebounds). He was voted the WAC Player of the Week three times, made the All- WAC Second Team and won the Riley Wallace Award, given to the top transfer in Division I basketball.
“The season of my life,” Glaze said. “I had Coach Majerle — he’s the best coach I’ve ever had. I had a program that I could trust, that I’m a proud alumni of. And, hey, when I was getting recruited, they told me what it was, and it happened. I was in a situation where I needed to produce right away and they needed someone to come in and fill a void inside, so it was a perfect relationship.”
Majerle’s perspective: “He said that he had been injured (right shoulder surgery) and just wanted a chance to play and show what he could do, and he’d bring energy and the right culture. I bought into it. I said, ‘If that’s what you want, we’ll give you a chance,’ and I think both parties lived up to it. I told him, ‘I’ll give you that opportunity as long as you do it the right way and it’s about Grand Canyon University and it’s not about you. You’ve got to do it within the team framework.’ And he was great, all year long.”
So was the entire team.
The Lopes made national news by going 27-7 in only their third year in NCAA Division I — an unprecedented record for a team still in the midst of the mandatory four-year probation that comes with a move up from Division II. They were 92nd in the Ratings Percentage Index (RPI), the best measurement of a team’s strength of schedule. Of the 25 D-I teams they played, 15 won at least half their games. They tied for second in the WAC, defeated perennial conference champion New Mexico State for the first time and stunned San Diego State on its home court, where it had won 98 of its previous 106 games.
Glaze felt at ease as soon as he arrived at GCU for summer workouts. “We have really wholesome guys, from Josh Braun, DeWayne Russell, all the way through,” he said. “They welcomed me with open arms, and we jelled right away.”
He also welcomed being around Majerle, quite possibly one of the few coaches in America whose enthusiasm could match that of the effervescent Glaze.
“Coach has childlike energy. He’s 50 years old, but he doesn’t get tired and he loves the game.”
Grandy Glaze, on GCU head coach Dan Majerle
“Every good college basketball team, they feed off their coach’s energy,” he said. “Coach has childlike energy. He’s 50 years old, but he doesn’t get tired and he loves the game. He still has a certain enthusiasm and glow about him that he had back when he was in college and when he played for the Suns.”
Their relationship was such that, before the second-round CollegeInsider.com Tournament game against Jackson State, Majerle told Glaze he was going to run a play for him to take a 3-point shot. Glaze had gone 0-for-10 on 3-pointers during the season — the only threes he had ever taken in his career — but kept insisting he could make one.
“I didn’t want to have to go to my grave saying that I never gave Grandy Glaze a chance to make a three in his senior year,” Majerle said.
So they ran the play, and … airball. “I caught the ball, measured it up and it just went awaaaaay out of bounds,” Glaze said. “I just looked at him like, ‘Coach, hey, I’ve got to get in the gym and get some more reps.”
The normally mega-intense Majerle had a priceless reaction — he cracked up as he walked courtside.
“I was more relieved than anything, knowing that I didn’t have to deal with him talking about it or shooting another one,” he said days later, still laughing.
The Lopes would win that game, touching off yet another GCU Arena celebration in a season in which they went 18-2 at home. Not only did the Lopes make some noise nationally, so did the wild-and-crazy Havocs student cheering section, which SB Nation called “the biggest party in college basketball.”
The future looks bright, but Majerle knows how difficult it will be to match what happened this season.
“I think we took a really good step this year — won 27 games, got a lot of notoriety — but we’re still a long ways from where we want to be, and we’ve got to build on it,” he said. “Next year’s going to be tougher. We’ve got a tougher schedule (see below).”
All of the regular rotation players will be back except Glaze and Ryan Majerle, the coach’s nephew. And if Majerle ever needs an ambassador for the program, Glaze is his guy.
“It’s a perfect situation,” he said. “I’d say that to any recruit. If you’re looking for an opportunity as a fifth-year guy or just in general, Coach Majerle is going to put you in position as long as you show that you’re dedicated to the team and you’re about winning first. He has a great offense. It’s NBA style.”
Look at what it did for Grandy Glaze. He got to show he’s the real deal.
FIVE GAMES TO CELEBRATE …
The Lopes’ five biggest victories of the season with final score, opponent’s final record and what made it significant:
1. 79-75 vs. New Mexico State (23-11)
Aggies won 14 of next 15 games after first loss ever to GCU, which ended with students storming court.
2. 52-45 at San Diego State (28-10)
Aztecs went on 11-game winning streak soon after losing to Lopes, advanced to semifinals of National Invitation Tournament.
3. 78-69 vs. Houston (22-10) at Las Vegas
Big win at San Diego State would have lost a little of its luster if Lopes hadn’t kept the momentum going with another impressive victory, this time in first round of Global Sports Classic.
4. 85-81 vs. Marshall (17-16) at Las Vegas
And this completed the big tournament victory, which was followed by eight more consecutive wins to bring streak to a dozen.
5. 64-54 vs. Jackson State (20-16)
Frustrated by Jackson State’s slowdown offense, Lopes went to full-court press — something they hadn’t even practiced — and came back for their second consecutive win in CollegeInsider.com Tournament. The previous two years, they had lost in first round.
… AND FIVE TO ANTICIPATE
The Lopes’ five most high-profile nonconference games next season, and what those teams did this season or in recent years:
1. at Arizona (25-9)
Could this be the beginning of a regular in-state date? Wildcats were disappointed with tying for third in Pacific 12 Conference and losing to Wichita State in opening NCAA Tournament game, but they’re perennially one of country’s top programs.
2. at Duke (25-11)
One year after winning their fifth national championship, Blue Devils advanced to Sweet Sixteen in what for them was a disappointing season. We have Havocs; Duke has Cameron Crazies.
3. vs. Louisville (23-8)
Cardinals were ineligible for NCAA Tournament because of self-imposed ban amid NCAA investigation, but they were considered a title contender when decision was made. This will be the most high profile team to ever visit GCU Arena.
4. vs. San Diego State (28-10)
You can be sure Aztecs will have revenge on their minds when they come to Phoenix for second half of two-year, home-and-home contract.
5. at Illinois (15-19)
Losing record was Illini’s first since 2007-08. They advanced to NCAA Tournament 25 times between 1981 and 2013, including two trips to Final Four and loss to North Carolina in 2005 championship game.
Contact Rick Vacek at (602) 639-8203 or firstname.lastname@example.org.