By Benjamin Owen
After losing seven players, including Rafael Araujo and Mark Bigelow, BYU”s men”s basketball team may not know what to expect from the Cougars this season. However, one thing remains clear: this year”s highly-touted recruiting class will be crucial to BYU”s success this season.
The group is headlined by three talented high schoolers. Freshmen David Burgess, Trent Plaisted and Chris Miles are all 6-foot-10 or taller and were all recruited by many of the nation”s elite basketball schools. The other two members of what rivals.com ranks as the No. 19 recruiting class are junior guard Joshua Reisman, who transferred from San Jose City College, and sophomore small forward Keena Young, who signed out of South Plains College in Levelland, Texas.
Head coach Steve Cleveland said that all the recruits are talented, but how they will develop this year remains to be seen. With all the losses from last season”s team, however, there will be plenty of opportunities for the newcomers to make their presence felt.
“Every young man in this program has an opportunity right now and they all know it,” Cleveland said. “It”s wide open for everybody.”
Last year, the 6-foot-10, 265-pound Burgess was considered one of the finest high school big men in the country. After his junior year, he was the only high school player to compete on the 19-and-under USA Basketball World Championships team that finished 7-1, and during his senior campaign at Woodbridge High School in Irvine, Calif. last year, he averaged 19 points, 13 rebounds and four blocked shots per game. He will provide BYU with a much-needed physical presence inside.
“I think my strengths are my rebounding and probably my low post game and my strength inside,” Burgess said.
Among the many schools to recruit Burgess were Louisville, Florida, Gonzaga, UCLA, Oregon and Utah.
While Burgess plans to make an impact with his brute force and toughness inside, fellow freshman Plaisted has caught the attention of many with his athleticism.
“Trent Plaisted, I can”t believe how athletic the guy is,” Burgess said. “He”s 6-foot-11 and has a 37-inch vertical.”
Fans have already gotten a glimpse of Plaisted”s high-flying antics. At the Cougar Tipoff, he stunned everyone at the Marriott Center during the slam dunk contest when he elevated high enough to stuff his entire arm through the hoop and hang from his elbow.
As a senior at San Antonio”s Clark High, his ability to elevate above opponents was one of the facets of his game that enabled him to be recognized as a member of the first-team 5A Texas all-state team.
Colleges around the country began to take notice of Plaisted last year when he averaged 22 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks per game, and Cleveland said he thinks his young forward is only going to get better.
“He”s got a lot to learn, but he”s a young man who”s got a huge upside,” Cleveland said.
Among the many schools to pursue Plaisted were Stanford, Kansas, Oklahoma State, Arkansas, Texas Tech, Texas A&M, Washington State, Florida State and Utah.
All three freshmen were highly recruited, but perhaps one of them has slipped a little under the radar.
When shooting guard Mike Rose was asked who the most underrated player on the team is, he said that it is probably Miles.
“Chris Miles is the real deal,” Rose said. “He hasn”t gotten much credit or pub yet, but he”s going to be good.”
Miles has not always been overlooked, however. During the summer of 2003, he was invited to the NBA players camp and during his senior season at Timpview High School in Provo, he was ranked as high as the No. 2 post player in the West.
Miles is Utah”s two-time reigning 4A state MVP and averaged 14.9 points, eight rebounds and 4.5 blocks per game as a senior.
Programs such as Connecticut, Kansas, Gonzaga, UCLA, Texas Tech, Utah State and Utah chased him, but in the end, Miles said BYU was the best place for him.
“It was a perfect fit, a perfect situation for me,” Miles said. “I got to stay close to home, play on a good team that I like and that I”ve watched growing up.”
Young, a sophomore transfer, had originally committed to Texas Tech after his freshman season at South Plains College, but said that the BYU coaching staff was a big factor in his decision to finish his college career in Provo.
“I just felt comfortable around the coaching staff when I came out for my visit, and then Coach Cleveland also said that it”s a good opportunity to come in and play big minutes.”
At 6-foot-6 and 205 pounds, Young is projected to make an impact at shooting guard and small forward. He should help to make up for the loss of Bigelow, last year”s starting small forward.
Young is athletic and said that he plans to contribute this year with his defense, rebounding and ability to knock down open shots.
Last season, he averaged 9.9 points and also pulled down 7.2 rebounds per game.
Reisman, a junior transfer, already has three years of playing experience at the college level, and his veteran influence will be a welcome addition to the team.
After capping off his senior season in high school by being tabbed as Washington State”s 3A player of the year, the 6-foot-1 guard remained in-state to attend Gonzaga and redshirted the 2001-2002 season. The following year, he appeared in 30 games for the Bulldogs and was a part of one of the greatest NCAA tournament games in recent years when the Zags almost upended then No. 1 seed Arizona in the second round of the tournament before succumbing to the Wildcats in double overtime.
Last season, Reisman made a name for himself at San Jose City College. After averaging 14.2 points, three rebounds and 2.2 assists per game, he decided to bring his talents to Provo.
“What really drew me to BYU was, I felt like they were up and coming,” Reisman said. “They”ve had a great last couple of years, and I felt like we could keep that escalating.”
Reisman said he was also excited with the opportunity BYU will give him to play point guard.
“I”ve always been a two guard or a combo guard since after high school,” he said. “I wanted to get back to playing point guard. I think that”s my natural position. That drew me to BYU in a big way.”
Reisman and the other members of the top-20 recruiting class that Cleveland reeled in during the off-season should get their fair share of opportunities make an impact this year. How much of an impact or who will get how many minutes remains to be seen, but currently, there are 10 players on the roster who did not take part in any games last season, so each member of the team will get a good look from the coaches and new contributors will have to emerge.