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BYU Basketball’s scholarship crunch and offseason roster problems

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While not a new problem for Dave Rose, the Cougar basketball team will have some difficulties figuring out what to do with too many players and not enough space.

NCAA Basketball: Brigham Young at Gonzaga James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Another BYU Basketball season is in the books. Now it is time for the honored post-season tradition of figuring out how next season’s roster will shape up.

Roster management is usually a disaster at BYU. There are tons of variables that seem to put a monkey wrench in things. Here are some of the greatest hits of BYU basketball off-season chaos: A change in missionary age. Players unexpectedly returning home, leaving for, or changing their timing for missions. Transfer requests. Graduate school transfers coming in and going out. Career ending aggregate health problems. Taking a gap year to get personal matters handled. The desire to go to law school. Whatever the case, BYU always has a cavalcade of offseason drama.

This article is going to assume an offseason where Dave Rose holds all the cards, but there are potential roster defections. Will Elijah Bryant decide to get paid while his knee is still healthy? Will Yoeli Childs get stars in his eyes and decide to bolt? Will guys such as Zac Seljaas and Payton Dastrup leave searching for a better fit for their playing styles? Will Nick Emery decide to come back to BYU?

For the sake of this article, we’ll say everything will work out for Rose. All the players in the program will stay in the program. All potential players are ready to enroll and suit up. Every test passed, all violations claims cleared, tip top health, and all players delighted with the BYU program.

The article will also assume that Dave Rose will not be trying to add any more pieces than anticipated to next season’s roster (which BYU very well could, but we’ll assume not for sake of this article).

Even in this perfect case scenarios without any unexpected player decisions, Dave Rose has a real problem this offseason. With zero players graduating and zero players anticipated to leave on LDS missions, there won’t be any space opened up on his roster; that’s 11 returning players. The issue here is that BYU has 6 additional players expecting to dress for the Cougars next season. He’s got 13 scholarships for 17 players.

Here are the potential members of the BYU basketball team next year.

Potential members of 2018-19 BYU Basketball team

Freshman Sophomore Junior Senior
Freshman Sophomore Junior Senior
Gavin Baxter Ryan Andrus Yoeli Childs Elijah Bryant
Kolby Lee Rylan Bergersen Payton Dastrup McKay Cannon
Agasiy Tonoyan Nick Emery Luke Worthington
Jahshire Hardnett
TJ Haws
Dalton Nixon
Zac Seljaas
Braiden Shaw
Evan Troy

New Additions to the Roster

Incoming recruits to the BYU roster for next season will be 4-star recruit Kolby Lee and 4-star recruit Gavin Baxter. Kolby Lee technically joined the roster following Kajon Brown’s transfer request. Reports indicate that Lee redshirted this season.

It is also known that BYU attempted to add Russian prospect Agasiy Tonoyan to the Y roster this season, but Tonoyan wasn’t able to pass his English proficiency TOEFL exam. Tonoyan wants to and plans on coming to BYU. However, he must get his language skills to a high enough level to have a shot at collegiate academic success.

In the name of positive manifestation, let’s say that Tonoyan will see a “Добро пожаловать в Provo” sign this summer. Actually, since he will know English, the sign could just say “Welcome to Provo.”

The point is that a well regarded international prospect and two 4-star recruits will get scholarships next season.

After clearing up violation allegations, returning to the roster will be star guard Nick Emery. Emery, a former All-Conference performer, will demand and deserve a scholarship.

Returning from injury will be a pair a big guys in sophomore Ryan Andrus and junior Braiden Shaw, who sat out this season.

Ryan Andrus played scarcely in the 2014-15 season. He returned home from his mission last summer, redshirted this season following knee surgery. He has height and nice touch on his jumper. The question is about his physical recovery and how his game looks post surgery. Andrus will eat up a scholarship.

Braiden Shaw has played more than Andrus in his time at the Y. He is an energy guy that can be tough defensively and on the glass. He had ankle surgery in January. He redshirted. He is on scholarship.

So, 6 additions to the roster. All expecting a scholarship.

Returning Players to the Roster

Let’s look at the 11 carry-overs from last season. Nine are on scholarship and two were walk-ons.

Bergersen, Bryant, Childs, Dastrup, Hardnett, Haws, Nixon, Seljaas, and Worthington are all on scholarship.

McKay Cannon and Evan Troy were walk-ons for BYU. Of course, walk-ons won’t factor into the scholarship equation.

So, including the 6 additions, that makes 15 players who have a scholarship extended to them. Division I NCAA Basketball teams can only have 13 scholarship players. Since we are assuming that nobody transfers, Dave Rose will to have to pull a scholarship from 2 players.

Who will that be?

For clarity sake, what is outlined below would be my particular priorities. Obviously, I don’t know Dave Rose’s preferences as it relates to roster decisions.

The “No Thought Required” Guys

The players in the group have nothing to worry about. If they want to play at BYU, they have a scholarship available to them for their services. Their track record demands a scholarship. They are the All-Conference guys. Here they are in order.

1st scholarship — Elijah Bryant

2nd scholarship — Yoeli Childs

3rd scholarship — Nick Emery

4th scholarship — TJ Haws

The “Sizzing Prospect” Guys

This group is all about the future of the program. They deserve an opportunity to show what they can do.

5th scholarship — Gavin Baxter

6th scholarship — Agasiy Tonoyan

7th scholarship — Kolby Lee

The “Experienced Depth” Guys

This tier of players have proven themselves on the court. They may not have fully formed yet as players, but now as upperclassmen it is time to come into their own. There has been plenty of time to learn how to play a role and make a difference on the 2nd unit and develop into a solid D1 player. Ideally, this collection of players provides poise, savvy, and leadership.

8th scholarship — Dalton Nixon

9th scholarship — Zac Seljaas

10th scholarship — Payton Dastrup

11th scholarship — Jahshire Hardnett

12th scholarship — Luke Worthington

The “Fighting For Their Spot” Guys

The final scholarship decision comes down to last three candidates: Ryan Andrus, Braiden Shaw, or Rylan Bergersen.

With only one scholarship spot remaining, this group should worry about tuition costs or transfer options. This spot is about a balance of future potential and roster need.

The 12 scholarship players listed above consist of seven guards/wings and five bigs. So, roster balance is pretty close. Perhaps a slight edge would go to a big guy over a guard, but truly this is about forward projection.

Does this player work their way into the program as a 6th man? A future starter? Are they injury prone?

Andrus’ future might be more valuable than the others.

BYU Photo

Ryan Andrus could benefit by the unstable situation under the hoop. Sure, Yoeli Childs holds it down at the 4 or the 5. But nobody has put a stranglehold on the role of being his running mate in the front court. That means that minutes on the floor are available.

Seljaas, Nixon, Worthington, Dastrup, Lee, and Andrus would all likely get an opportunity to stake their claim to the floor time. Really it is about matchups.

If there are small ball lineups, BYU plays Seljaas and Nixon.

If there is a lot of size on the floor, Worthington and Dastrup step in. Kolby Lee’s body indicates that he is a bruiser to throw at the Jock Landale’s of the college hoops world.

The lanky Ryan Andrus gives an interesting possibility at 6-foot-11. He doesn’t really fit cleanly into either of those matchup groups. Which could mean that he is useful against both big lineups and small ball looks, or it could mean that he isn’t adept in either situation.

The key differentiator for Andrus is defensively. If he can use his length to be a rim protecter and active shot blocker, that would give him a trait that BYU doesn’t have in any player on their roster.

Of course, none of this will ever be known if Andrus can’t get healthy and stay healthy.

Does gambling on Andrus offer greater rewards than the others? Maybe it is worth the wager.

What about Braiden Shaw?

NCAA Basketball: Brigham Young at Gonzaga James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

For his junior season, Braiden Shaw would likely serve in the role as a Luke Worthington understudy. The case for Braiden Shaw would have to be that he is quite a distance further along than Kolby Lee. To my understanding, Lee and Shaw offer a similar style of game. Lee has much more upside. If the freshman Lee can provide something in the ball park of what the junior Braiden Shaw can do, Shaw becomes redundant. Any minute given to him could be used to bring along Lee. Then there’s the timing issue.

Since BYU will have seven juniors, it makes it hard to want to carry another junior. The Cougars will already have to replace seven guys in two years. That’s already a colossal task. Eight is even more difficult. Perhaps that will also work against Braiden Shaw.

Then, there is Rylan Bergersen.

BYU Photo

Personally, I like Bergersen’s game the most. In particular, I like Bergersen’s confidence. Every time he stepped on the floor he was all in. He was ready to defend and shoot. He believes in his abilities. In limited minutes, there were enough glimpses to see that Rylan could take on more to help the Y win ball games.

Bergersen can redshirt. He easily has the best health history. He is buried behind a lot of talent right now, but another year of coaching could really bring him along.

I could go for Ryan Andrus if he has a defensive game that I’m unaware of. But the safest, best bet is Bergersen.

13th scholarship — Rylan Bergersen

Cut — Ryan Andrus

Cut — Braiden Shaw

If the offseason were to proceed this way, does this make BYU better next year? It certainly should.

Emery is really, really good on both ends of the floor.

Baxter has all the promise of a difference maker and gives BYU something that they didn’t have this year in a rangy, athletic wing that could be a lockdown perimeter defender.

Kolby Lee’s 4-star pedigree suggests that he has more skill than Worthington.

Tonoyan could provide a solid scoring option to round out a 2nd unit.

This is the pathway to getting better next season. And even then, this is the path of lowest tension and hi-jinx.

Of course, there will be drama this offseason. Heath Schroyer has already left for McNeese State. We will see what happens next.

But here’s to having an offseason that goes better than previous ones. The previous rocky off-seasons have led to early-season-bubble-busting NIT appearances. A clean, relatively simple run from April to September will be vital to improving the BYU Cougars basketball team next season.