Thunderstruck: Majerle, ‘Lopes making noise in wide open WAC

Life has treated Dan Majerle pretty well.

So goes the story for “Thunder Dan” who has his Grand Canyon Antelopes in the thick of the Western Athletic Conference title run despite not being eligible for the NCAA tournament due it being the Lopes’ first season in Division I. The Phoenix Suns’ legend and former assistant coach who took over the program last March has GCU (11-10 overall, 6-2 in conference play) tied for second with New Mexico State and just a game behind front-running Utah Valley who visits GCU Arena Thursday night.

“We have a chance to be tied for the lead in the WAC,” Majerle told Sports360AZ.com’s Brad Cesmat in a recent phone interview. “I have to keep pushing our guys and make sure they know we’re not at our limit yet.”

Majerle and his team have hit their stride, winning four in a row and five of their last six after an ugly non-conference stretch in December which included five straight losses and the dismissal of guards Demetrius Walker and Jeff Lowery. Both former Arizona prep stars, Walker led GCU in scoring at the time. It all seems like a distant memory now for the ‘Lopes.

“I really don’t have a whole lot of concerns because they play really hard,” he explained. “Our talent level isn’t where it has to be. We want to be a major player in college basketball and that’s a process…they’re making or breaking every expectation this year.”

The buzz is growing surrounding the program. GCU is second only to New Mexico State in home attendance and the private school is planning on expanding their state-of-the-art arena this off-season because of the ticket demand and expected growth under Majerle whoΒ understands winning breeds success both on the court and at the box office, especially here in Phoenix with so many different sports options.

“The word has gotten out,” Majerle said. “People are starting to hear about us. Not only the atmosphere but the kind of basketball we’re playing . People who enjoy basketball have found out about [us].

Clearly the rest of the WAC has and they don’t exactly like what they see from the ‘Lopes thus far.