It's no secret that BYU's front line is looking a little thin these days.
With only four "bigs" currently on the roster for the upcoming season, coach Dave Rose has been trying desperately to add some depth down low. (Keep fasting and praying for Jamal Aytes!) Only time will tell if he succeeds in that quest.
But the problem isn't isolated to just the 2013-2014 season. The paucity of quality post players is something that extends into the next few years as well — and Rose is more than aware of the problem.
Fortunately, the problem became a little more manageable today when Ryan Andrus — a skilled big man from American Fork who various outlets peg at anywhere between 6-foot-8 and 6-foot-10 — announced the following through his Twitter account:
Just got off the phone with Coach Rose! Committed to play basketball for BYU!!! Couldn't be happier!!:) #gocougs #extremelyblessed— Ryan Andrus (@andrus_ryan) July 31, 2013
To be sure, Andrus isn't a world-beater — and he likely never will be. He's not a five-star guy, or even a four-star guy. In fact, none of the most prominent recruiting services have even evaluated him. So lest anyone get carried away, we should be clear that he's not a program-changer.
However, that doesn't mean that he's not a quality addition. While the recruiting services may not have been paying particularly close attention to Andrus, college coaches throughout the intermountain West certainly were. Prior to verbally committing to BYU, he also held scholarship offers from Utah, Utah State and (a suddenly resurgent) Boise State.
So the kid's no slouch. He can play. He averaged 19.3 points and 6.5 rebounds per game last year as a junior for American Fork, scoring 20 points or more on 12 different occasions and breaking the 30-point barrier three times. And with his size and his soft shooting touch (he also hit 19 three-pointers as a junior), there is certainly room for continued growth and improvement. That's worth being excited about.
But the best part of Andrus' commitment, particularly from Rose's perspective, is his willingness to play a season before leaving on his LDS Church mission. While most future Cougars are planning to take off immediately after high school and then come back to play four uninterrupted years, Andrus will be in Provo for the 2014-2015 season — providing some of that inside depth the Cougars are currently lacking.
As such, Andrus should get plenty of opportunities to play significant minutes and contribute in a meaningful way as a true freshman. That certainly seems to be what both he and Rose are planning on — as he told the Deseret News' Brandon Gurney:
"I hope I can get in there and help out right away," he said. "I love the system and I feel I'll fit in well with that system. I'm very excited to help out where I can and excited to be part of such a great program.
This is a welcome development. Sure, Andrus probably won't end up being a superstar — but with the likes of Nick Emery, Eric Mika and T.J. Haws (and potentially Payton Dastrup, God willing) waiting in the wings, Rose's program shouldn't be lacking for star power in the coming years.
What the Cougars do need, both now and in the future, is depth — solid players who are willing to fill a role and do the dirty work. As important as it is to have great stars, teams don't win at any level without good role players — and that's something BYU is a bit short on right now.
The marquee names are there. Tyler Haws, Matt Carlino and Kyle Collinsworth will headline the program for the next few years before passing the baton to the Lone Peak Three. All of that is good. But Rose recognizes that the roster around that talent still needs to be filled out some.
Carrying just four post players, two of whom have never played a meaningful minute of Division I basketball before, isn't a recipe for success. You need more bigs — you need their rebounds, their defensive presence around the rim, their hustle and, yes, you even need their fouls from time to time.
Ryan Andrus will be able to help provide all of those things, and I expect he'll be able to learn, grow and excel in his specific role over the course of the next few years. He may not be breaking lose for many more 20 or 30-point games, but he'll be playing a valuable and essential part in what looks to be a very bright future for the program.
Fear not, fellow Cougar fans. Depth is on the way.