Cougar fans, it's time!
In preparation for the BYU basketball season just around the corner, I've been trying to catch up on all the interviews that happened last week for BYU Basketball Media Day, and I've been doing some research on our new and returning players. I think we've got a good team shaping up, and I can't wait for the season to begin!
For starters, we've lost several players since last year. Charles Abouo and Noah Hartsock graduated, Chris Collinsworth retired because of injuries, Damarcus Harrison transferred to Clemson, Nick Martineau lost his scholarship and chose to leave the team, redshirt Michael Boswell left the team because of problems recovering from a surgery, and redshirts Jaren Sweeney and Austin Nelson have departed on their LDS missions.
Anyway, that is quite a lot of shoes to fill. Let's see how this year's team is shaping up:
Brock Zylstra- Brock the rock is Brock with vengeance! Bad puns aside, Zylstra really grew on me last year. In his media day interview, he said he feels the team is better prepared for this year. They're more comfortable on the court and with each other. It will be hard to fill the void left behind by Noah and Charles, but the new seniors are ready to step up and take over with a solid team effort on both offense and defense.
Brandon Davies- I'm already depressed that this is Brandon's last season. He's my favorite. In his media day interview, the first thing out of his mouth was, "I can't wait. It's been too long!" Amen, Brandon. He said this is his last shot, his senior year, so he's going to give it everything he's got. Woah boy, I'm excited.
Craig Cusick- Craig is one of the most underappreciated members of the team, IMHO. He's got a great shot, and has improved drastically since he first transferred to the Y. Brock mentioned that Craig has especially improved in the off-season, so I'm excited to see what he brings to the court in his senior year.
Stephen Rogers- According to Coach Rose, Stephen is having a hard time recovering from the surgery he had to repair his torn meniscus last year. He still has a lot of issues with pain and swelling, so he may or may not make it on the court this year. I hope he at least gets to play a little bit. I really like that guy and the way he plays under pressure. I feel bad for him and all the injuries he has had the last couple of years.
Both juniors on the team are JC transfers.
Raul Delgado- This guy is getting a lot of hype in the pre-season. Originally from Mexico, he's got a cool accent and a lot of swag. In his media day interview, Raul said he is impressed with the team's dedication, strength, and tenacity. He believes his role will be to make shots and be a good representative of the team both on and off the court. The interviewer mentioned that Raul is already becoming known as a showman. Raul's response: "It's all about having fun. Basketball is fun!" He's also very resilient-- he dislocated his elbow the day before school started this fall, but he's already way ahead of schedule on his recovery and is ready to go. Coach Rose says the fans will really enjoy watching him play. He's fast. He can score in a variety of ways-- a good driver and a good finisher. I'm really excited to see him in action.
Agustin ("Auggie") Ambrosino- A transfer from SLCC and a devout Catholic, Auggie grew up in Argentina and Spain. He is fitting in well with the team, according to Coach Rose. He said he chose BYU over his other offers because he likes their fast-paced playing style and the coaching techniques of Dave Rose. He's also a big Jimmer fan. I like him already. :) He's a 6-foot-8 power forward who averaged 9.6 points and 5.3 rebounds per game at SLCC last season. He also has 44% accuracy on 3-pointers. His playing style has been compared to Noah Hartsock-- I certainly won't complain about that!
Nate Austin- Nate had shoulder surgery in the off-season, but he has been cleared to play. He's a good back-up for Davies and brings a lot of strength and good defensive skills in the paint.
Tyler Haws- I'm sooo excited that Tyler is back from his mission and ready to play again. He's one of the best free throw shooters I've ever seen. In fact, he has a current streak of 48 consecutive free throws made-- a school record-- that he can continue building on this season, despite his 2-year hiatus. He was getting teased about it a little bit at the commercial shoot in May-- Brandon accused him of forgetting how to play basketball while he was gone, and everyone was saying he'd better not miss that first shot back on the court (Tyler admitted that is one of his biggest fears). In his media day interview, he said the biggest strength of this year's team is unity. Everyone gets along on and off the court. They're competitive-- they want to win and they will be a tough team to beat this year. Tyler is a solid addition to this team and is expected to be a starter and a team leader, a role he is very excited to have.
Josh Sharp- This might sound harsh, but if I had to pick a "least favorite" member of the BYU basketball team, it would probably be Josh Sharp. He just doesn't seem to do very much or contribute to the team on the court, and he's always back in the shadows off the court, making it hard to feel a connection to him. But maybe he'll change my mind this year and come out swinging! I hope so.
Anson Winder- At the basketball commercial shoot in May, Anson really impressed me with his friendliness to the fans and his sense of humor. Toward the end of the shoot, the crowd was starting to thin out and they were having a hard time making it look like there were a lot of fans in the background, so Anson came over during one of the shots that he wasn't in, stood right behind me, and started cheering with us, shouting things like, "Hey Brandon, nice shot! I'm a fan! Can I have your autograph?" He's a cool guy, both on and off the court. I like his ability to keep cool and deliver under pressure. I think he's got a great season ahead of him.
Cooper Ainge- Son of the legendary Danny Ainge, Cooper is a walk-on on this year's team. Since he will be leaving on his mission next summer, he might redshirt.
Cory Calvert- Cory originally planned on going on a mission before enrolling at BYU, but he has decided to play for a year first instead. He's 6-foot-3, was the 2012 5A MVP in Colorado, and plays both point and shooting guard.
Kyle Rose- Coach Rose's nephew Kyle redshirted in the 2009-2010 season (which means he had lots of practice guarding Jimmer and Jackson in practice during their junior year) before his mission in Salt Lake City. Now he's back and is ready for his first regular season on the team. He said it's not that strange to be playing on his uncle's team because at family reunions, Uncle Dave is the one joking around and making everyone laugh, but "when it comes to basketball, he's Coach Rose."
Ian Harward- Ian decided to redshirt last year (I heard they were originally going to redshirt Nate Austin, but when Harward got injured (I'm not sure what the injury was, though), they switched places), but this year, he's ready to go. I don't know much about him, but he's really tall (6-foot-11) and hopefully can do some damage in the paint like Nate Austin.
Coach Dave Rose:
In his Media Day interview, Coach Rose said he likes the way the team looks, both physically and mentally, but admitted they need to be more confident and become more prepared through repetition and consistency. The new NCAA rule that coaches can practice 2 hours per week with the team during the summer has helped a lot. The pre-season non-conference schedule is "one of the best we've ever had" and he's excited to get started.
It will take some getting used to (for both players and fans) with the student section behind the hoop and the players' benches on the other side of the court this year, but they're ready to go. And so am I!!!
The Cougar Tipoff is one week from tonight!!! Let's get ready to rumble!!!