BYU basketball looking to revitalize post presence

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Ari Davis
Nate Austin gathers the ball during a game in 2013. As a fifth-year senior Austin aims to lead the Cougars in the post this year. (Universe Archives)

The BYU men’s basketball team is looking to revamp its post attack this year after the team struggled mightily to score in the post in the 2014-2015 season.

Newcomers Kyle Davis and Jamal Aytes, along with returning contributors Corbin Kaufusi and Nate Austin, hope to turn things around after injuries, inexperience and a lack of eligibility hampered the Cougars frontcourt last season.

Head coach Dave Rose used a combination of seven different players in the post last season. Austin, Kaufusi, Ryan Andrus, Luke Worthington, Isaac Neilson, Dalton Nixon and Josh Sharp all saw minutes at the position—to limited success.

The rotation will be much different for the Cougars this season. Sharp graduated, Neilson transferred to Utah Valley University and Worthington, Andrus and Nixon are serving LDS missions. Austin is healthy after only playing in 10 games last season due to a torn hamstring. Transfers Jamal Aytes and Kyle Davis are eligible to play and freshmen Braiden Shaw, Jakob Hartsock and Alan Hamson will also add depth to BYU’s frontcourt.

Senior forward Austin said he thinks the Cougars big-men will be difficult to guard.

“I really like our big man group,” Austin said at Media Day. “We’ve got a lot of talented bigs. It’s nice because everyone does something that’s a little different. Everyone’s game is a little different, which will make it hard for teams to guard us.”

Austin is projected to start alongside Davis, a 2014 transfer from Utah State. Those close to the Cougars said Davis was one of the most talented post players practicing on the team last season. Davis averaged 9.1 points and 7.6 rebounds per game as a sophomore with the Aggies in 2013-2014. He’ll look to lead the post attack this year.

Senior guard and captain Kyle Collinsworth said Davis will fill a void for the team.

“His low post scoring will be great,” Collinsworth said at media day. “We missed that last year, and he is very good at that and very consistent.”

Aytes and Kaufusi most likely won’t start for the Cougars, barring certain matchups, but they will play heavy minutes in the rotation this season.

Aytes was eligible to play for the team last season but took a redshirt due to an ankle injury. He played just under 10 minutes per game at UNLV as a freshman and averaged 2.8 points per game.

Aytes has received numerous comparisons to former Cougar Keena Young. Both Aytes and Young are “tweeners” – players who are larger than guards and smaller than forwards – but that didn’t stop Young from finding great success in Provo. He earned Mountain West Player of the Year honors in 2006-2007 and averaged 17.6 points per game.

Aytes acknowledged the similarities to Keena Young at Media Day. But he said his focus is helping the team win games.

“I just want to be a hard worker,” Aytes said at Media Day. “I’ll do whatever the coaches ask of me. If it’s rebounding, then I’ll rebound. If it’s points, then points. If it’s defense, then defense. I’ll do whatever it takes to help the team get the win.”

Kaufusi was forced to start as a true freshman last season after Austin was injured. He demonstrated flashes of greatness and a knack for blocking shots last season. Rose described Kaufusi as a high energy and “highlight” type of player. But his inexperience was hard to ignore as a true freshman. Kaufusi said things will be different this season.

“I think with experience there comes more responsibility,” Kaufusi said at Media Day. “I’m not just the new guy running around not knowing what’s going on. I know what’s happening now. It’s time to help other guys.”

Hamson, Shaw and Hartsock—all incoming freshman—have different skill sets.

Hartsock is a self-described “outside shooter” who stands at six-feet-seven-inches tall and was ranked as a three-star recruit by ESPN. As a high school senior, he averaged 18.6 points per game and led his team to the Oklahoma state Class 6A playoffs.

Braiden Shaw at BYU basketball Media Day. Shaw was ranked as a three-star recruit by ESPN. (Natalie Bothwell)
BYU forward Braiden Shaw at the Cougar basketball Media Day. Shaw was ranked as a three-star recruit by ESPN. (Natalie Bothwell)

Shaw was also ranked as a three-star recruit by ESPN. He averaged 15 points and 11 rebounds per game as a high school senior in 2012-2013. Shaw said the rest of the team has played a pivotal role in his development.

“The whole team has had a role in helping me,” Shaw said at Media Day. “It’s been fun to go against Nate, Corbin, Kyle, and Jamal. I get to learn from them every single day.”

Hamson is a massive player. He stands at seven-feet-three-inches tall and has a seven-foot-three-inch wingspan. He recorded 123 blocks, the second most in Utah state history, as a high school senior in 2011-2012.

Hamson wasn’t ranked by any of the major recruiting sites coming out of high school. He had corrective back surgery to repair scoliosis after graduating high school.

Hamson said he always wanted to play college basketball.

“I knew I wouldn’t have a lot of scholarships after my surgery because of the unknown and how it would all go,” Hamson said at Media Day. “I was planning on walking on somewhere, but I definitely wanted to play college basketball.”

The Cougars new post unit will take the court this Friday, Nov. 13 for their regular season opener against UVU.

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