Cleveland has eye on national championship

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    By WAYNE ARBALLO

    Amidst the loss of personnel and a 9?2D21 record last year, BYU head basketball coach Steve Cleveland brandishes a grin these days given the recruiting success he’s had in the off-season.

    The players are 6-foot-7-inch, 230-pound, power forward Silester Rivers; 6-foot-10-inch, 215-pound Mark Michaelis; and 6-foot-6-inch perimeter threat Mark Bigelow.

    “Silester is outstanding and has the potential to be a great defender and scorer. … He has great hands and feet and is an explosive scorer and finisher,” Cleveland said in a recent press release.

    On the other hand Michaelis has a “huge” upside with solid offensive skills and a great feel for the game, Cleveland said.

    Cleveland said Bigelow is an ace who will offer depth and longevity to the program.

    In addition to the off-season recruiting, several players participated in pro-Am leagues, skill development clinics, and individual strength and conditioning sessions. Cleveland, however, said he still feels that there are some institution wide goals that need to be in order to give the program a stronger base.

    “There needs to be a bit of a reality check in terms of what we really want for BYU in terms of athletics. I’m not sure that there’s a clear understanding of that right now,” Cleveland said.

    “I think (that in) recruiting, it’s pretty public information that there’s a real scholarship imbalance here. We don’t even have scholarships this second year … we’ve got to get some of the best athletes to rebuild this and help us sustain what we’re trying to do.”

    Despite this, Cleveland said that he believes in everything that BYU stands for and that he can get the job done.

    As far as the team’s expectations go for this season, Cleveland said he’ll be very surprised if they’re not participating in the post season somewhere.

    “My goal is to go to the final four and win a national championship,” Cleveland said.

    To address this goal Cleveland has staffed the team with a core of young talent in addition to the junior college transfers. He feels that half the battle is getting the players you have familiar with the system in place and keeping them there long enough to effectively run with it.

    “Now we actually are going to have some continuity with some players over a two or three period. We actually have a nucleus of five or six sophomores that are going to be with us for three years.”

    Last year, after going a month without a win, the Cougars’ won three of their nine total victories in the last two weeks of the season. These victories came against some very tough opponents with their stronge showing coming as the first in five years to topple seasoned New Mexico at The Pit.

    In addition to the usual WAC foes, the Cougars’ will face nonconference teams like Auburn; Arizona; Louisiana Tech; Washington State; and California.

    “We’re going to build a program that’s going to last into the 21st century so that what’s happened in the last three or four years with BYU basketball never happens again,” Cleveland said.

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