On Saturday Jan. 9, in the Cougars’ 102-92 victory over San Francisco, something happened for the first time in BYU basketball history. Two true freshmen scored 20 points in the same game; guards Nick Emery and Zac Seljaas scored 21 and 20 points, respectively.
“It’s something that hasn’t shocked me because I’ve been able to see them play this well all summer,” junior forward Kyle Davis said in a post-practice interview. “They have the confidence, they have all the skills they need to be able to play like you see them playing right now.”
Emery has set the season record for most games of three or more 3-pointers scored by a freshman, as well as the most games of five or more 3-pointers. He’s scored 45 baskets from beyond the arc and has started in 14 of 18 games so far this season.
The Lone Peak High School product said he’s been able to have this kind of success after finding his game on the college level.
“After 15 games or how ever many games we’ve played, you kind of just get into your rhythm as a team and your teammates trust you and you’re able to knock down shots for them,” Emery said.
Seljaas has made 53.5 percent of his 3-pointers through his first 18 collegiate games and has hit at least one shot from behind the arc in 10 straight games earlier in the season. He already ranks 6th all-time among BYU freshmen for 3-pointers made with 38.
“I just owe it to my teammates for passing; it’s not about my success,” Seljaas said after his performance against San Francisco. “It’s about coming out for the win. It’s all about the win.”
BYU head coach Dave Rose is impressed with the play of his freshmen this season.
“Nick and Zac, and their consistency in the last month, is the most impressive thing to me,” Rose said. “We knew that they have great ability and I think you can see that at times, especially with younger players, but their ability to sustain it over the last weeks.”
Rose hopes to rely on Emery and Seljaas because they’ve become a “big part” of the success the Cougars have had.
BYU’s tradition of freshmen basketball standouts can be seen in the last 10 years.
Lee Cummard played guard for the Cougars and started in 14 of 29 games during his freshman season (2005-2006). He averaged 4.9 points per game and recorded seven dunks.
Jimmer Fredette never started a game his freshman year (2007-2008), but played a significant amount of time in 35 games. The guard averaged 18.5 minutes and seven points per game. He scored a season high of 19 points against Hartford.
Forward Brandon Davies and guard Tyler Haws played their freshmen years together (2009-2010). Davies started one game out of 35 and averaged 5.4 points per game. He recorded his first double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds playing 26 minutes against Air Force.
Haws started in 33 of 35 games and averaged 11.3 points per game as a freshman. He recorded a season high of 24 points and two double-doubles. Haws set a BYU record by making 48 straight free throws. He and several other recruited players played for Lone Peak High School under Quincy Lewis, who is now an assistant coach at BYU.
Current senior guard Kyle Collinsworth also made an impact as a freshman (2010-2011). He started 27 of 36 games and averaged 5.8 points per game. Collinsworth recorded one double-double and season highs of 16 points and 15 rebounds.
CBSsports.com ranked Eric Mika No. 15 in its list of the nation’s top 30 freshmen in 2013. Mika played on BYU’s 2013-2014 roster before leaving on a mission to Rome, Italy. He started in 29 of 33 games as a freshman and averaged 11.8 points and 6.4 rebounds per game. Mika recorded five double-doubles and posted a season high of 20 points twice. He was named to the WCC All-Freshman Team. He also played high school ball for Lewis at Lone Peak. Mika will be coming back to play for the Cougars next season.
Mika, along with TJ Haws and Payton Dastrup, will return to BYU next season. With their arrivals, the gems of Rose’s 2013 and 2014 recruiting classes will finally take the floor together in Provo.