When BYU guard Nick Emery announced his retirement from basketball on Tuesday, it felt a bit like the end of an era. While Emery’s fellow “Lone Peak Three” running mate TJ Haws remains on the roster for one more season, Nick’s exit from the program feels like the close of a chapter that Cougar fans breathlessly speculated about for so long, only to have reality not quite measure up to the (honestly, insanely high) expectations.
So no, BYU didn’t make multiple Final Four runs with Emery in Cougar blue. But that doesn’t mean there weren’t many fun memories made along the way! In honor of Nick moving on to the next adventure in his life, we collected the Vanquish The Foe staff’s favorite memories from the often-controversial career of our favorite mercurial lefty gunner.
Emery sinks 10 threes, scores 37 points in 2016 road rout of San Francisco
Steve Pierce: February 11, 2016 may have been the peak of Nick Emery’s BYU career, at least performance-wise. Emery had many memorable performances, but none more so than the night on the Hilltop when he broke BYU’s single-game freshman scoring record by dropping 37 big ones on an unsuspecting San Francisco squad, including tying Chase Fischer’s program record with 10 made threes. It was quite the sight to behold. Truth be told, watching the highlights still brings a smile to my face:
If you’ll recall, this was near the end of Emery’s outstanding freshman season, when he was well on his way to becoming an all-conference player in the WCC—but this game may have single-handedly solidified his status. As a Cougar fan who was sentient during both the Jimmer Fredette and Tyler Haws eras, I’ve seen my fair share of scoring explosions by BYU guards. Heck, I saw Fischer’s aforementioned three-point barrage live from press row in Maui! But I don’t know if I’ve ever seen anyone get quite as scorching hot as Emery was on that night in San Francisco. The Dons had no answer for him. Nick seemed totally unstoppable. And if anything, the fact that he was at that point still just a freshman only elevated the performance. If he could do something like this in his first full season of college basketball, imagine the incredible feats that awaited him!
Obviously, that didn’t end up being the case. Nick fought through more than his fair share of adversity, both on and off the court, and I admire him for that. And while he never quite reached the heights that many of us (probably himself included) thought he would in a BYU uniform, for this one night, up on the Hilltop, Nick Emery was a golden god and everything seemed possible. Even if that moment ultimately proved to be fleeting, I’m glad we all got to witness it—and I’ll probably still be smiling when I think about it for years to come.
Emery hits clinching three-pointer to knock off Gonzaga
Robby McCombs: I’ll always remember Nick Emery as a competitor and a fighter (get out your Utah jokes now). As a freshman in the 2015-2016 season, Nick had one of the best freshman seasons in BYU history as third guard in a trio with Kyle Collinsworth and Chase Fischer.
Quick recap of that Gonzaga game: this was in January 2016 and was the second of three straight BYU wins in the Kennel. Gonzaga was ranked 25 going into the game, and BYU won when Nate Austin blocked Kyle Wiltjer at the win just before the buzzer sounded.
The winning basket, however, came from Emery. And it wasn’t just that Nick made the winning basket, but how he did it; he had zero points for the first 38 minutes of the game and was struggling to find his shot the whole night. With 1:38 left in game, Nick took a pass from Chase Fischer and launched from deeeep three point range without hesitation. He sank the basket to put BYU up 69-67, in a game BYU ultimately won, 69-68.
That to me is a microcosm of Nick’s BYU career — he had his ups and down, but fought through tough times to come back when his back was against the wall.
You can see the shot below at the 45-second mark.
Nick Emery returns from suspension with immediate impact off the bench
Tyler Staten: I’ll always remember Nick Emery as a fierce competitor. I first learned that while attending his rival high school watching him light us up, and I loved it at BYU. While he had greater performances, my favorite Nick Emery memory will be his first game back last December against Utah State. We were all aware of his year away and the suspension, but very few of us really understood all that he went through during that time.
His first game back was a massive one too. BYU had just embarrassingly lost to Weber State and was on a three game skid. Utah State was considered by many to be the favorite. BYU would eventually win the game behind phenomenal performances from Yoeli Childs and TJ Haws, but my favorite part of the game was when Nick Emery stepped on the court.
Nick was welcomed by a strong ovation. Moments later, TJ Haws would drive to the baseline, turn, and find Emery beyond the three-point line. Nick caught the ball smoothly and pulled up and nailed his first bucket back from the arc. He and TJ shared a smile, but moments later Emery would get a steal and an assist before a Utah State timeout. The Marriott Center was LOUD, and you couldn’t help but feel happy for Nick.
Nick Emery looks like he never left. Another 3 for the Cougars!#BYUHoops #BYUvsUSU pic.twitter.com/aoc5UH8t9k— BYUtv Sports (@byutvsports) December 6, 2018
The rest of the season wasn’t spectacular for Nick. He took a backseat role in a mediocre season. But it was undoubtedly a key moment in his career and will be my favorite Nick moment that I remember him for. Best wishes to Nick and his new family.
Emery does his best Kyle Collinsworth impression to send BYU to the NIT semifinal
Keith Shirts: This was said only one time over the PA system of the Marriott Center.
“Starting at point guard, a 6-foot-2 Freshman from Alpine, Utah... Nick Emery!”
The game was against Creighton in the 2016 NIT Quarterfinals — which was probably the most meaningful victory of Nick Emery’s career as BYU won 88-82. Sure, Nick beat highly-ranked Gonzaga a few times. But, this one was a do-or-die, post-season win that sent the Cougars to Madison Square Garden.
Emery was the key performer in the game. Despite being called to do something he’d never do at any other time in his career — run the offense from the point.
On the morning of the game, it was clear the Collinsworth wasn’t going to be a full go. He had a terrible case of flu. This was a problem. The Cougars had everything run through the West Coast Conference Player of the Year — Mr. Triple Double — Kyle Collinsworth. He didn’t really have a backup.
Emery rose to the occasion. In a game where it could have been easy for the Y to lose their identity and panic, Nick calmly led the Cougars on the floor with 17 points, 7 rebounds, and 5 assists. A Kyle Collinsworth-esque performance. He showed poise and confidence. Only the freshman Emery had to change his approach to the game that night, there rest of the 15-16 Cougars still looked themselves.
That night was a showcase for the gift Nick Emery had for the game. Frequently, Nick identified what his team needed and he was talented enough to do what the game asked of his skills. On that night, he needed to play like an All-Conference caliber point guard and he did it. Amazing. What a gift.