Yoeli is off to test his mettle in the ranks of professional basketball. He’s taking his 21.2 points per game with him. Even more than just the amount of points, he’s taking with him the focal point of BYU’s offense last season. Everything ran through Yoeli, and now he’s gone. So how does BYU go about replacing him?
With Coach Dave Rose announcing his retirement, and a successor yet to be named as I’m writing this, we really don’t know the style that the new coach will bring with him. But, if I were the coach, this is what I would do.
First point. The cupboard is not bear. TJ Haws returns with his 17.8 points per game and 5.1 assists per game. Both of those numbers need to go up. TJ was the most consistent outside shooter last year and that will only help him as he enters his senior year. One aspect of his game that is going to incredibly important for BYU’s success is the fact that not only is he a willing passer, he is also pretty talented at it. Yes, passing a skill and TJ has it.
With TJ being the obvious focal point of the offense and a second and third scorer not being obviously apparent, I would go toward a 4-out, 1-in motion style offense with Gavin Baxter running as many pick and rolls with TJ as possible. One major difference between the playing style of Childs and Baxter is that Yoeli is a saavy scorer who will sometimes pop, sometimes roll, sometimes stop in the mid-range area, while Baxter should be diving to the front of the rim looking for a dunk. Think of how the Utah Jazz utilize the length and athleticism of Rudy Gobert. BYU should also use the length and athleticism of Baxter to find advantageous looks at the rim. One aspect of having a motion offense style rather than a more iso approach, is that it gives Baxter the opportunity to go play pick and roll with a guard, preferably Haws, as defenders are chasing and can be blind sided with the pick. In an iso approach, the defense sees the pick and roll coming and can set up a specific called defense to defend. It may not work, but they’ll be ready for it.
Ultimately, once again if I was the coach, I would be telling the team and Gavin to at least attempt 5 dunks off lobs a game. The pressure he would put on the rim will make defenses make decisions on how they want to play him. If they over play the lobs, it will open up other shots for teammates.
One aspect of the newer team is that it should have more shooting available. Trevin Knell and Jesse Wade will be available to play in the upcoming season. Wade, a transfer from Gonzaga and Utah’s former Mr. Basketball in high school, scored 26.8 points per game his senior year. He also shot 60% from the field and 45% from the 3 point line. Knell, a former Cal commit, scored 25.3 points per game on 57% shooting and 48% from three. Add these two players to the players who are returning in Connor Harding (46.3% and 30.9%), Zac Seljaas (42.4% and 37.3%), as well as Nick Emery (39% and 35.5%) and you could potentially have some really open shots from three as you have Baxter putting pressure on the rim.
Ultimately, TJ has to take shots. I would submit that every three or so possessions where he does not get a shot, the coaches should call a set to get him in a position to score or attack. Virginia runs multiple stagger or elevator screen looks that BYU would be wise to emulate. TJ is too good with the ball in his hands to not give him opportunities to attack the basket.
Ultimately, the new coaching staff will have a system and playing style in mind. Hopefully they find ways to create a secondary scorer to take the heat off of TJ. If they do not, then the team will struggle to score. Obviously, I’m just a high school basketball coach, but I really do hope to see a ton of Baxter dunks that free up teammates to make open threes.