With the first day of practice only six days away, BYU basketball coach Dave Rose fielded questions from the media during his annual pre-season press conference on Tuesday afternoon.
Entering his 11th year as the head man on the bench in Provo, Rose touched on a wide variety of topics related to the upcoming campaign during his availability. Check out a few of the big takeaways from his remarks below:
1. The Cougars' trip to Spain gave them a jumpstart on the season
Rose expressed his excitement about the possibility with this year's squad, particularly after their recently completed trip to Spain, where they were able to play four games against low-level pro teams. He said the trip gave the coaches an opportunity to get a good feel for the group, how the players fit together and where their strengths and weaknesses lie.
One thing that Rose touched on repeatedly was the importance of the increased depth on this year's roster, particularly at the forward positions. While the Cougars have been regularly blessed with an abundance of strong guards in recent years, a dearth of quality bigs has forced the coaches to play smaller lineups more than they would have liked. With the addition of Kyle Davis and Jamal Aytes, the return of Nate Austin and Corbin Kaufusi and the potential contributions from a slew of promising freshmen, Rose should find himself with much more lineup versatility moving forward.
2. Rose expects better defense than a year ago
It's no secret that BYU's defense was less than stellar (to put it lightly) last season — and that's something that Rose expects to improve. The added depth on the frontline will play a big role in that, he said. By having more quality big bodies to throw out there, the Cougars should be able to match up better with opponents and produce more consistent results.
Additionally, there will also be a change of leadership on the bench when it comes to defensive matters. With former assistant Mark Pope now the head man across town at Utah Valley, newly elevated associate head coach Tim LaComb and freshly hired assistant Quincy Lewis will now handle the team's defensive game preparations. Lewis, in particular, brings a strong defensive reputation from his previous stops at the high school and college levels — something that star guard Kyle Collinsworth appeared to confirm remains the case in an interview on Tuesday:
Kyle said that Quincy has brought a defensive mindset and a different approach to the game.— ESPN960Sports (@espn960sports) September 29, 2015
After last year's ample defensive frustrations, a new approach may be just what the doctor ordered.
3. With Haws gone, BYU may take a "by-committee" approach on offense
This is a transitional year for the Cougars on several levels, but the biggest change may be the loss of the program's all-time leading scorer Tyler Haws to graduation. BYU depended heavily on Haws to produce offense the last few years, and someone else will need to step up and fill that void if they hope to keep their nationally dominant offense humming at its usual efficiency.
That's easier said than done, obviously, and Rose foresees the Cougars taking a "by-committee" approach to replacing Haws' production. He identified four players — Collinsworth, Chase Fischer, Nick Emery and Kyle Davis — who averaged double-figures on the Spain trip, and suggested that there may ultimately be five or six total players who could average 10 or more points this season, depending on how playing time shakes out.
The latter number may end up being a bit optimistic when things are all said and done, but with as much as Rose's teams like to get out and run, there's little doubt there will be a lot of available shots for some new faces this season. It seems likely that several different players will have to be involved in making them count.
4. The team is finally getting healthy
BYU suffered through a snake-bitten year in 2014-15, with Austin, Aytes and Anson Winder all suffering injuries that caused them to miss significant time. Thankfully, it seems like the injury bug might have finally gone into hibernation.
Rose said that Austin surprised him by being able to go through every practice and play in every game in Spain, and by performing at a high level while doing so. Aytes was only able to play on two of the trip's four contests, but practiced regularly and told reporters on Tuesday that he's currently feeling the best he's felt in over a year. If they can stay healthy, both big men figure to play a huge role for the Cougars this season.
On the negative side of the ledger, Rose said that guard Cory Calvert twisted his ankle in the first game in Spain and hasn't been able to go at a 100-percent level since. He's hopeful that the recently returned missionary will be able to rejoin the team on the first day of practice on Monday, but the jury's still out.
5. Rose is already really excited about next year
He tried to play coy and talk about how important it was to stay focused on the upcoming season (which hasn't even officially started yet!), but Rose couldn't help but show his excitement about the arrival of his first top-ranked recruiting class on campus, which will be complete with the return of Eric Mika, TJ Haws and Payton Dastrup from their missions next year.
Dave Rose is having a really hard time hiding how much he’s already looking forward to next season.— Steve Pierce (@PostJimmer) September 29, 2015
As much as he tried to hide it, the coach couldn't help but smile like a kid in a candy store when thinking about the future of his program — and I think most BYU fans know exactly how he feels.
You can watch Dave Rose's entire press conference below, courtesy of BYUtv: