Canton's New Man in Charge

In Canton, the pieces are quickly coming together.

Less than a week after officially unveiling the team name, colors and logo, Charge GM Wes Wilcox took the podium at the spacious Edgewood Community Center – where the club will practice – to announce the hiring of the team’s first-ever head coach, Alex Jensen.

The players that come through Canton will have a solid, experienced coach in Jensen. They’ll also have a coach who’s shared their experiences. Wilcox called it “the ability to connect and communicate.”

“I’ve played in the CBA for a season and had a great experience there,” said Jensen. “And I’ve been in the spot that some of these players will be in.”

Jensen has a wealth of hoops wisdom to share with young players. He was Utah’s Mr. Basketball in 1994 and starred at the University of Utah – where he reached the NCAA Championship game as a sophomore and was named the Mountain West Conference Player of the Year as a senior.

At Utah, Jensen matriculated under legendary coach Rick Majerus. And before coming to Canton, he served on Majerus’ staff at Saint Louis University, which made its first postseason appearance since 2004 two seasons ago. Last year, Jensen exhibited his defensive bona fides, as Saint Louis allowed only 62.4 points per game.

As a player, the Utah native played in Turkey for seven seasons and also spent one season with the Yakima Sun Kings of the CBA, where he led his club to the CBA title. He was named the All-FIBA Europe Cup Defender of the Year and to the All-FIBA Europe Cup First Team in 2004 during the FIBA Europe Cup with Tuborg Izmir.

Jensen also played in Spain and Japan before moving into the coaching ranks. And he looked and sounded ready to roll as he embarks on his first head coaching assignment in Canton.

“It’s clear that the Cavaliers are doing this the right way,” beamed Jensen. “Their philosophy is the same one I’ve been taught, the same one I believe in that you implement to win games and be successful. It was an opportunity that came along that I couldn’t pass up.”

When asked why the Charge chose Jensen, Wes Wilcox sited not just his skill and passion as a coach – but the path he took to get there.

“(Jensen) talked about his path – and he has traveled the path that many of the guys in Canton will be in the middle of traveling,” said Canton’s new general manager.

In his tenure with Rick Majerus as a player and assistant, Jensen learned from one of the best.

“He’s one of the best basketball minds around and I’m lucky I was able to learn from him as long as I did,” praised Jensen.

The turnaround will be quick for the former Ute, with Training Camp approaching and the Charge’s first game at the Canton Civic Center scheduled for November 25 against the reigning champion Iowa Energy.

“Our (coaching search) process was a deliberate one and one that we took very seriously – and we’re very happy with the result,” said Wilcox.

“One nice thing is that the players aren’t college players,” observed Jensen. “They’re more accomplished and, at some point in their life, they’ve had better coaching. So hopefully, (we’re) able to speed up the process somewhat.”

After setting up residence in Northeast Ohio, Jensen will begin that process this week. And in just over a month, hoops fans in central Stark County will see the results on the hardwood.