By Brent Edmunds
Entering his third season as head basketball coach, Steve Cleveland has taken the Cougars from the depths of a 25 loss season to a near top 25 ranking.
Fox Sports Web page has the BYU mens basketball team ranked near the top 25.
The ranking surprised a lot of people, including Steve Cleveland.
“I had no idea we were ranked so high,” Cleveland said with a laugh.
“Those rankings are for the fans and the media,” Cleveland said. “I’m not too concerned with them.”
“I also think those rankings are a little premature. We have a number of young players again this year,” Cleveland said.
Although the basketball season is still months away, Cleveland is not about to raise peoples expectations to the top 25 yet.
But people have taken notice of the improvements BYU’s team has made in such a short period of time.
The team finished strong last season with a win in the conference tournament over arch rival, and perennial Mountain West powerhouse, Utah.
Add to that one of the best recruiting classes BYU has ever had, and suddenly BYU’s basketball team is in danger of actually underachieving.
Something very new for veteran players like forward, Nathan Cooper.
“It’s always nice to get the recognition, but you have to prove it on the floor,” Cooper said. “If you look at it as a pressure thing, then it can be hard — but I think it’s fun.”
Cleveland said he agreed with his senior forward and did not try to completely dowse the flames of fans expectations.
“I think this team is capable of a lot of things,” he said. “I think we did have a top ten, top fifteen recruiting class in the nation, and once this freshman class gets back from their missions, we will have a very good team.”
Looking back at Cleveland’s track record, both at the high school and college levels, it becomes apparent he is more comfortable winning and meeting high expectations than losing and keeping expectations low.
It is also appropriate to mention missionary service as another major factor in controlling the speed at which a program at BYU can be rebuilt.
“We recruit kids now to play two or three years down the road,” Cleveland said. “It makes rebuilding a different process than at other schools.”
Cleveland should know, being the only head basketball or head football coach in BYU history to have served a full-time mission.
But even with missionary sabbaticals to deal with, and lots of underclassmen on the team, Cleveland had to thank the over enthusiastic, preseason pollsters and admit, “It’s better than no expectations.”