With the beginning of practice just over a month away, the BYU Cougars have had an eventful and productive summer — highlighted by an illuminating trip to Spain. While the team won all four of its games in lopsided fashion, Dave Rose showed us what his rotation for 2015-16 might look like with so much roster turnover from last season, while also giving each player plenty of time to prove themselves on the court.
The Cougars won their four games in Spain by an average of 24.75 points, giving Coach Rose the opportunity to experiment with many different lineup combinations. He spread playing time fairly evenly across all the players that made the trip. Some players were more successful than others, and some players exceeded expectations.
Here are my biggest takeaways:
1. Corbin Kaufusi isn't as far ahead of Nate Austin as we may have thought.
While we've heard nothing but praise for Kaufusi in the offseason workouts and Austin is coming off an injury, the two played fairly equally on the trip. Kaufusi had only one field goal in the first two games but improved offensively as the trip went on, while Austin was fairly consistent throughout and isn't expected to score as much. They both rebounded well, and even started one game together.
However, Kyle Davis seems to have locked down the power forward spot with his solid post play, so only one of Kaufusi or Austin can start. While Kaufusi has improved immensely since his decision to switch over from football last summer and he started to end last season in Austin's absence, Nate is still very experienced and won't just hand him the starting job.
2. Nick Emery is the frontrunner to be the third starting guard.
Kyle Collinsworth and Chase Fischer are mortal locks to start at two of the guard positions for this year's squad — and it looks like Nick Emery might have the inside track on joining the two seniors. The freshman guard averaged over 10 points and shot 54.5 percent from the field in Spain.
While Emery had an excellent offensive showing, his competitors for the starting spot had their fair share of struggles. Jake Toolson was just 8-for-19 from the field and 3-for-11 from beyond the arc, which is concerning since he is known as a sharpshooter. True freshman Zach Seljaas was even worse, going 2-for-14 from the field and 2-for-13 from distance. Look for Cory Calvert, who is still getting back into shape after his LDS mission, to be the primary competitor to Emery for minutes in the backcourt.
3. Jamal Aytes could be an X-factor for BYU this season — if he can stay healthy.
Despite sitting out the middle two games of the trip to rest, the UNLV transfer showed significant promise. Aytes had 15 points and 6 rebounds in just 12 minutes in the opening game. He represents a player BYU hasn't had in a while: a bruising power forward who can bully defenders to the basket and draw a lot of fouls. If he can avoid injuries, he has a chance to play a lot of power forward — and maybe even some small forward when Dave Rose wants to play big. He could matchup up very well against someone like Pepperdine's Stacy Davis, who played well against BYU last year. If Aytes is playing a lot of minutes, redshirt years could be forthcoming for Jakob Hartsock and/or Braiden Shaw, who just returned from missions in June.
4. BYU shouldn't have trouble scoring the ball without Tyler Haws, but the production will be more balanced and come from different places.
Last season, the five primary scorers were all guards: Haws, Collinsworth, Fischer, Anson Winder and Skyler Halford. With only two of them returning, there are plenty of opportunities to score — especially for big men. The Cougars' glaring weakness last season was the absence of points from the post, but with Kyle Davis, Jamal Ayes and the always improving Corbin Kaufusi flashing some offensive ability at both forward spots, the Cougars' scoring will likely be more evenly distributed among all positions on the floor.