By PAUL WELLING
Utah Valley State College isn’t just the “other” school here in Utah Valley. Its successful basketball team is proving to be a great recruiting spot for BYU’s basketball program.
Two former UVSC players, Silester Rivers and Mark Michaelis, have signed letters of intent to play for BYU.
“We are excited about this year’s recruiting class and the high school prospects over the next two years,” said Steve Cleveland, BYU basketball coach.
Rivers is a 6’7″, 230 pound junior from Houston and Mesa, Ariz. In his last season at UVSC, Rivers led the Wolverines in scoring and rebounding with an average of 15.1 points and 8.4 rebounds per game.
“I think he’ll be an explosive scorer for us inside,” Cleveland said. “I also think he’ll be a great defender.”
In high school, Rivers lettered in football, basketball and track, and was team captain of the basketball and the football teams. In his senior year at Mesa High in Mesa, Ariz., he averaged 20 points and 12 rebounds a game.
At UVSC, Rivers is known for his high-flying dunking. According to the UVSC website, Rivers was a first-team all-region selection and shot an amazing 62.2 percent from the field for the season.
Among the honors he received while playing at UVSC include NJCAA honorable mention All-American honors, player for the NJCAA All-Star team, was the most valuable player on his team and won the UVSC crowd pleaser award.
Rivers was recruited by a number of schools including Virginia, Kansas State and Arizona State, but chose to come to BYU instead.
“It was an opportunity to play in the best situation,” Rivers said.
The facilities, the fans and the trust he had in the coaching staff were major influences in his choosing to play for BYU, Rivers said.
Regarding his first year at BYU, Rivers is optimistic about the teams’ chances for a successful season.
“Realistically, I see no reason for us not to win at least 17 games and go to the NIT,” he said. He also hopes to help the team on its way to the NCAA tournament.
Michaelis, a 6’10”, 215-pound player from Salt Lake City will return from a mission in New York late this summer.
Cleveland said he hopes to focus on strength and conditioning in order to have Michaelis back in shape by January.
Michaelis averaged 8.1 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game in his only season at UVSC.
“He has solid offensive skills and a great feel for the game,” Cleveland said in a news release. “We believe he has a huge upside and that strength and conditioning will be major factors during his first year back from his mission.”
Regarding Rivers and Michaelis, Cleveland said: “Both Mark and Silester have solid offensive skills. We expect both these young men to be making positive contributions come January.”
With a program that is still suffering from the loss of Ron Selleaze and Mike Garrett, Cleveland said he thinks Michealis and Rivers will help make up for that loss. But he admits Mike and Ron are difficult to replace.
Despite BYU’s recent losses in both football and basketball to Honor Code violations, Cleveland said he doesn’t see a need to change any recruiting methods.
“Ron and Mike are good young men who just made a mistake,” Cleveland said concerning Selleaze and Garrett.
Rivers said he doesn’t expect to have any difficulties with the Honor Code.
“I’ve lived in the valley for two years and I kind of know what’s going on,” he said.
What Cleveland thinks needs to be done is for BYU students to be more socially accepting of non-LDS athletes.
“I think that more can be done for non-LDS athletes in terms of socially integrating them into the BYU community,” he said.
“The non-LDS athletes that BYU recruits are good young men who just don’t always understand the reasons behind all the rules,” Cleveland said. “More can be done to help these young men succeed academically and athletically.”