Cougar fans had their first opportunity to check out this year’s BYU Basketball team during the annual Cougar Tipoff scrimmage Wednesday night in the Marriott Center. A small fanfest was held before the game with games for kids, face painting, and swag — then fans had the chance to get a good look at the team they’ll be supporting all season. And despite a couple questionable haircuts (looking at you, Nick Emery and Zac Seljaas), things look pretty good.
Nick Emery seems to be sporting the Kyle Collinsworth circa 2010 haircut... pic.twitter.com/K6oZJ3THGY— Jess and Mary (@cougsoncougs) October 26, 2017
With the departure of Eric Mika at the end of last season, the loss of assistant coach Terry Nashif, and the addition of associate head coach Heath Schroyer, there were plenty of potential questions as to how this team will compete.
But with the experience of key starters like Nick Emery, TJ Haws, and Yoeli Childs, the return of missionaries Zac Seljaas, Dalton Nixon, and Luke Worthington, and the addition of players like Jashire Hardnett and Rylan Bergersen, there is excitement surrounding the program again.
With a final score of 88-68, the Blue Team (Elijah Bryant, Nick Emery, Yoeli Childs, TJ Haws, Zac Seljaas, Payton Dastrup, and Evan Troy) defeated the White team (Jahshire Hardnett, Rylan Bergersen, Kajon Brown, Dalton Nixon, Luke Worthington, McKay Cannon, and Braiden Shaw).
“I think that when you take the pieces that we saw here that we can put together a pretty competitive team,” Head Coach Dave Rose said post-game. “I like the feel and the pace and I thought the guys stayed within themselves which a lot of times when you practice as long as we have and then you turn the lights on they turn to their own selves and there weren’t a lot of those possessions today.”
The Cougars showed more patience on offense than they have in the past, moving the ball around the half court and waiting for open looks. Childs, Haws, Emery, Bryant and Seljaas all shot 60 percent or better, largely thanks to their unselfishness on offense and apparent trust in each other.
“Almost everybody touches it almost every play and that’s a huge deal on offense, both for making the defense chase it and mentally for every guy on the team knowing that I’m going to pass this ball and get it back,” explained forward Yoeli Childs.
Childs was an immediate bright spot on offense, showing his athleticism and dominance in the paint. He ended the night as the overall leading scorer with 23 points, seven rebounds, and a few monstrous dunks.
TJ Haws looked like the incredible and consistent shooter that he is, scoring 20 points on 4-7 from three for the Blue team. Don’t be surprised if Haws “quietly” leads the team in scoring this season.
After an inconsistent last season riddled with injuries, Elijah Bryant is finally healthy and should be a key player for this BYU team. He finished the night with 20 points, shooting 4-5 from three, and led both teams with eight assists and no turnovers. Coach Rose praised Bryant after the game. “I am an Elijah fan. I think that he has the physicality, the diversity and the skill and he’s got a big heart too,” he said. “Hopefully, we can keep him healthy. He could be a really good player for us.”
Elijah Bryant turned in a 20-point, 5-rebound, 8-assist effort tonight. He was excellent tonight; looking healthy and playing very well.— Greg Wrubell (@gregwrubell) October 26, 2017
Zac Seljaas ended the night with 10 points and two treys, and was the night’s best rebounder, with eight. Nick Emery struggled a bit from three, but ended with nine points and four assists. Maybe not the night some people expected from him, but with so many weapons on offense, you can still expect Emery to have some big scoring nights ahead of him.
Most of the question mark guys played on the White Team, including returned missionaries Dalton Nixon and Luke Worthington, and transfers Jahshire Hardnett and Kajon Brown, and freshman Rylan Bergersen.
Despite just coming off of missions, both Nixon and Worthington look like they’ve put in work with their strength and conditioning and should be ready to contribute right away. Nixon led the White team with 19 points on 8-11 shooting. “I was happy for Dalton,” Coach Rose said. “The way he played tonight was exactly like he has been practicing the last three weeks and that could be a real plus for us.” Worthington was right behind Nixon, scoring 16 on 7-11 shooting and pulling down six rebounds.
Jahshire Hardnett is another player that seems likely to be a spark off the bench Hardnett is quick, able to get to the rim, and makes good decisions with the ball. He added 14 points on 8-8 from the line, seven assists, and zero turnovers. “Jahshire is different than all our guys. He is fast, quick and strong . . . I think he is physically tough enough to be a real factor at this level,” Coach Rose commented.
With his quick release and sharpshooting, freshman Rylan Bergersen could be another asset off the bench. He is a spot-up shooter on offense, hitting four threes on the night, and, like Seljaas, his length on the guard line can disrupt opposing teams on defense. He could develop into an excellent player for BYU.
One of the biggest concerns coming into this season is the team’s ability to play consistently good defense. The addition of Coach Heath Schroyer should be a significant improvement in that area. Guys on both teams were much more vocal and communicative on defense. Coach Rose has mentioned an emphasis on not just contesting, but limiting three-point attempts. The Blue team did that more successfully than White, holding them to 5-16 from distance.
BYU is patient on offense and defends ball screens differently. Heath Schroyer has already injected new energy & scheme to this group.— Jarom Jordan (@jaromjordan) October 26, 2017
There’s only so much you can learn about a team from a scrimmage, however. Thankfully, BYU will have an opportunity for an immediate test Friday against New Mexico in The Pit when they compete in an exhibition game to raise money for victims of Hurricane Harvey. BYU and New Mexico have had an intense rivalry since the Mountain West Conference days, and The Pit has always been hostile to BYU teams. Dalton Nixon summed up the team’s feelings on playing this particular exhibition game: “I was talking to coach the other day and it’s been seven years since he’s taken a team to The Pit and I’ve heard stories of when my dad was playing of how hostile of an environment it is so we’re just really excited. Hopefully, we can get a lot of people in The Pit and sell that thing out and send all the proceeds to the victims. We’re really excited.”
It's still really early, but this should be another exciting BYU Basketball team to watch! Cougar Fans, it’s time!
If you missed the Cougar Tipoff, you can check it out here: