They were powered by the energy of screaming fans in the Smith Field House. For the first time in their life the newest additions to the BYU basketball team felt what it was like to play in front of some of the best college basketball fans in the nation.
If any of the rookies were nervous, they weren’t showing it. Two out of the three winners of the Boom Shakalaka competitions were newcomers. Transfer Skyler Halford won the 3-point shootout over Tyler Haws in the second round. Matt Carlino with the help of Lexi Eaton from the women’s basketball team and fan Greg Baker swept the skills challenge. Finally, freshman Eric Mika stole the title away from his roommate Frank Bartley IV during the rowdy dunk contest.
The event was not an ideal scouting opportunity for fans wanting to see how the Cougars would do this year, but it was entertaining and a good opportunity to see the players in a more intimate setting.
“As long as I can jump higher and do cool tricks I’m going to win.” Mika said before the event.
Josh Sharp set the standard high during the dunk contest by jumping over a woman who threw him an alley-oop for a one-handed slam. Sharp continued to arouse the crowd by passionately kissing the woman who turned out to be his wife.
Kyle Collinsworth, who was favored to win the competition by head coach Dave Rose, completed his technical dunk after his fourth attempt and scored the lowest out of everybody in first round. Collinsworth recently returned from his mission to Russia and it was apparent by his performance that he is still striving to overcome the issues most return missionary athletes face.
“The best thing about Kyle since the day he’s been home is he’s always had a terrific work ethic,” Rose said. “He has continued every week to get better, get stronger, get in a little better shape.”
In the end it was Bartley’s dunk over Mika’s 6’10” frame and Mika’s alley-oop from behind the backboard that would advance them into the final round where Mika would outperform his roommate by jamming over coach Mark Pope’s miniature dirt bike.
The dunk contest was judged by a panel of five special invitation judges that included former Cougars Mike Hall, Travis Hansen and Noah Hartsock, as well as Jason Gray from Studio C and Miss Utah USA Marissa Powell.
The 3-point shootout was scored based on how many shots were made from 5 different locations along the perimeter of the 3-point line. Each location had three balls worth one point and one “money ball” worth two points. The highest score possible is a 25.
Halford set the mark at 17 points in the first round. Haws came in second with 14 points allowing him to a second attempt to beat Halford in the final round. Haws made a good run for it in the final round scoring 16 points and it looked like he was going to win but Halford’s came back scoring nine of his last ten balls to claim the victory with 19 points.
The skills competition was a timed event that consisted of passing, shooting and dribbling. Team Carlino completed the event in 47.4 seconds, 17 seconds quicker than the three other teams that competed in the event.
Fans not only enjoyed seeing the Cougars compete against each other in the three events, they were entertained by special guest artist Can’t Stop Won’t Stop. The band played live throughout the event and held a 40-minute dance party after the dunk contest concluded.
The showcase was a major success to get the season started with a flare. ESPN projected the Cougars to finish second in the West Coast Conference behind Gonzaga and will be led by junior guards Tyler Haws and Matt Carlino. The WCC is ranked ninth out of 32 conferences.
“Junior guard Tyler Haws will be the anchor of this year’s BYU team,” ESPN Insider said. “He’ll likely be the WCC’s best player at getting to the line, and he made a whopping 88 percent of his 211 free throws last season.”
The next opportunity to see the Cougars play will be Wednesday Oct. 23, during the Cougar Tipoff in the Marriott Center.