A year ago, BYU was a young team with no seniors and eight sophomores on the roster. 11 players were not on the team the season prior, and the team needed the offseason to figure out how to blend all the new pieces together.
Fast forward to today where BYU now has a team with 2 seniors, 8 juniors and only 4 players who were not part of the team last season.
Gone is leading scorer Elijah Bryant, who left early to play pro ball in Israel. Big man Payton Dastrup decided to transfer to Oregon State, and Braiden Shaw and Ryan Andrus left the team for medical reasons.
Losing Bryant is obviously a loss, as the all-WCC performer was responsible for nearly 25% of BYU’s scoring, but BYU is hoping that a more experienced squad and the the addition of Nick Emery and a trio of former 4-star recruits will put the team over the hump into the NCAA tournament.
Let’s take a look at the newcomers to this year’s BYU Basketball team:
Class: Redshirt Junior
After a year hiatus from the team, the fiery lefty returns and will be counted on to fill some of the scoring void left by Elijah Bryant. Emery will have to sit out the first 9 games due to alleged violations of NCAA rules, but he will return in time for a back-loaded non-conference schedule.
As our own Steve Pierce already pointed out in his BYU guards season preview, Nick will immediately become one of BYU’s best defensive players and gives BYU another weapon that can go off for 30+ points any given night.
He averaged 14.7 points per game during his first two seasons and twice went off for 37 points. If BYU is to make it back to the NCAA tournament, they’ll need the former All-West Coast Conference player to be a key piece.
6-feet-9 inches. 7-feet-2-inch wingspan. Elite athlete that enjoys playing defense. BYU simply doesn’t get guys like that in the program.
After returning from a two-year Church mission in May, Baxter will be counted on to immediately become an important rotation player. Yoeli Childs and Luke Worthington are locked in at the two starting big man spots, but depth is thin behind those two.
Baxter will be counted on to primarily provide three things during his freshman season: defense, rebounds and dunks — anything on top of that during year one will be a bonus. With his long wingspan and quickness for his size, Baxter will be a major asset on the defensive end if he can effectively switch on ball screens to guard opposing teams’ bigs and guards.
If Baxter can provide that defensive versatility, be effective on the glass, get easy put-back dunks and other baskets above the rim, and hit the occasional open shot, then he will be a valuable pice to this year’s team.
Class: Redshirt Freshman
The Meridian, Idaho native was the 2017 Idaho Gatorade Player of the year and an ESPN 4-star recruit coming out of high school. Lee redshirted last year after returning home from his Church mission midway through the season. He’s been sidelined for part of the offseason due to an injury, but Dave Rose expects him to be ready for the start of the season.
Lee showed the ability to hit the occasional three in high school, but he will likely be more of a traditional low-post guy during his BYU career. At 240 pounds, Lee is best equipped to assist Luke Worthington in guarding opposing teams’ beefier big men.
Childs, Worthington, Dalton Nixon and Gavin Baxter will all start out ahead of Lee in the rotation, but Lee will be counted on to provide more size down low depending on matchups and foul trouble. If Lee can provide tough defense and develop a go-to offensive move, his redshirt freshman season will be a success.
The Idaho Gatorade Player of the Year a year prior to Kolby Lee, Harding will look to break through a crowded backcourt. Harding’s size and skill set is unique from BYU’s other backcourt players; in some ways, he he similar to Kyle Collinsworth — he can do a little bit of everything on the basketball court (and shoot). That’s not to say he will have the same career that the NCAA’s triple double king had in Provo, but he is different than other guards on the team.
Harding primarily handled the ball and played point guard in high school, but he will probably have to play more off the ball this season if he wants to make an impact on the team. TJ Haws, Jahshire Hardnett, and Nick Emery are the top three guards that will command the most playing time, but Harding has the skill to leapfrog Rylan Bergersen and/or McKay Cannon in the rotation at some point this season.
Harding could and should develop into a starter at some point in his BYU career, but the back court may be too crowded this year for Harding to have a consistent game-to-game impact.
The lone walk-on of the newcomers, Maughan played at BYU-Hawaii in the 2012-2013 season. After serving a Church mission, dealing with injuries and a stint on the practice squad, Maughan is now a member of the BYU basketball team.
As a freshman at BYU-Hawaii, Maughan appeared in 27 games and averaged 4.5 points while shooting 39.2% from the field and 34.7% from three.