Now that the roster for the 2014-2015 season seems to be complete, it is time to get to know some of the new additions to the team — starting with the big guys on the blocks. The greatest question posed to this year's group of big men is who can help replace Eric Mika? Mika averaged 11.6 points and 6.4 rebounds in his freshman campaign. It is not just the production the Cougars will miss — they will also miss his presence as a big, athletic rim protector and someone you had to account for on every possession.
Nate Austin (6-11, 230): After three years of watching Nate play, I think we all have a fairly good idea what he brings to the table. Nate will bring energy, rebounding (7.9 rebounds per game), and fouls (he had the 2nd most personal fouls in a season in BYU history). Austin is a limited player who uses his strengths to better the team on both ends of the floor. As long as he makes the plays he knows he can make, much like he did last season, he will be an effective starter for the Cougars. The one improvement I would love to see is to limit his fouls, as he only fouled fewer than three times in seven total games last year.
Josh Sharp (6-7, 185): Does anyone else remember when Josh Sharp was a regular starter? He started 22 games during his sophomore year. Last year, we didn't see too much of Josh as he only averaged seven minutes a game, although coach Rose did play him much more during the conference schedule. Josh, while freakishly athletic, is also a very limited player. He can rebound and play defense, but is very undersized for a post player due to being so light. He will play in spots this year and probably fulfill a similar role to what he had last season, primarily spelling starters when they are in foul trouble.
Luke Worthington (6-10, 245): Worthington is another big bodied post who gets into foul trouble. He averaged almost a foul per every two minutes played last year. Luke is a very good post defender and a good rebounder. During a few practices I have watched, he is showing more aggression on the offensive end, as well as a better finishing touch around the rim. However, he is still struggling to put the ball in the basket. Hopefully another year training with the coaching staff has helped him learn to stay on the floor.
Kind of Returners (Coming Off Redshirts):
Jamal Aytes (6-6, 230): Jamal was a player that many Cougar fans (and writers) were hoping would commit to BYU last summer. He originally went to UNLV, but transferred to Provo after the fall semester. He is eligible to begin play in December due to NCAA transfer rules. Aytes brings a big body, though slightly undersized, height-wise. He is very athletic and very physical. He plays in control and on balance, and uses his strength to create space to finish around the basket. He also has a solid jump shot. Offensively, Aytes is the most likely to provide the production lost with Mika's absence.
Isaac Neilson (6-10, 230): Neilson has one elite skill, and that is as a shooter. He can flat out shoot the ball. His way of getting on the floor will be in a stretch-4 role, kind of like Noah Hartsock played prior to his senior year. He is also a good help defender and a decent rebounder, if you can judge by his high school highlights. He has long arms and is actually a pretty good passer. His passing ability comes both in passing out of the post and in outlet passing to start fast breaks.
Dalton Nixon (6-8, 220): Nixon is a very good offensive player. He is a very good shooter and has a very high basketball IQ. He can score in the post, or on the perimeter. Dalton has a very good jump shot and really can score. He averaged 20 points and nearly 9 rebounds last season at Orem High. My only worry with Nixon is that he looked to be a step slow compared to the other players when I saw him this summer. He is the least athletic of the bigs and that could be the thing that keeps him off the floor.
Ryan Andrus (6-10, 220): Andrus is the least likely to see floor time this season. He is not very strong and does not have a go-to skill that could help him earn time. He can make an open jump shot and has a a good jump hook in the post. He also is fairly athletic and used that to his advantage in high school. He really needs to bulk up and add some strength if he wants to contribute at the next level.
Corbin Kaufusi (6-10, 260): Kaufusi might be the biggest surprise of this whole bunch. He was originally going to play for the football team, but after growing two inches on his mission, he has decided to focus on hoops. He averaged over 11 points per game during his senior year in high school, but there isn't much film on him as a basketball player. He is athletic and strong, and it was reported that he really impressed his teammates and coaches during summer workouts. With his size and athleticism, it would be good to at least get a few minutes a game out of him. His strength and physicality could do wonders to solidify the post position for the team.
Overall, this group has depth that could really help the Cougars through the tough non-conference schedule. With this many big bodies, Rose can afford to have his bigs play physical and tough. There is enough talent within this group as a whole to really contribute to a successful basketball season.