The BYU men’s basketball team is looking forward to its new season with optimism and excitement despite losing over half of last year’s roster.
After standout center Eric Mika declared for and went undrafted in the 2017 NBA Draft, he signed with Italian team Pallancestro Pesaro in July.
L.J. Rose and Kyle Davis played their final season with the Cougars last year, and BYU coach Dave Rose announced in April that Davin Guinn, Steven Beo and Jamal Aytes will not be returning to the team.
While many players have left the program, there are some familiar faces returning.
Zac Seljaas, a 6-foot-7 guard from Bountiful, Utah, has returned for the upcoming basketball season after serving an LDS mission in Iowa.
Seljaas had an impressive freshman year in 2015, hitting 68 three-pointers for the Cougars.
Dalton Nixon, a 6-foot-7 forward from Orem, and Ryan Andrus, a 6-foot-11 forward from American Fork, recently returned from serving LDS missions and will be joining Seljaas this upcoming season.
Nixon said he’s working on getting back into the swing of things after serving a mission.
“I’m trying to focus on just getting back and being confident and working hard and getting into the gym and putting in the work individually, and then together with the team so that we can be ready to go when the fall comes,” he said.
With eight players who weren’t on last season’s roster, the team is focusing on its team chemistry.
“It has been really positive, and we are improving each day and each week,” Nixon said. “I think that that is just going to continue throughout the summer and put us in a really good position when the season begins.”
Coach Tim LaComb, who has been with the program since 2007, also mentioned the team’s focus on chemistry.
“We have a lot of new faces, so there’s definitely a part of it that they’re getting used to each other on and off the floor, but chemistry is a huge part of our aim this summer,” LaComb said. “That seems to be something that the guys are all really excited about and doing a really good job of starting to develop.”
The team has also gained some exciting new recruits, such as Rylan Bergerson, a 6-foot-6 guard from Boise, Idaho. LaComb said in recruiting this year, BYU looked for versatile players.
This redesigned team will have a different look to them as well, according to LaComb.
“Our leading scorer and kind of the guy who led us last year, Eric, is gone, and I think that we’ll probably adjust a little bit (with) guys making a lot more plays off the bounce,” LaComb said. “I think we’ll probably see a lot better spacing on the floor, we’ll see the ball move a little bit quicker and hopefully, the way that we’re trying to play, you’ll see a lot more three-point shots.”
Along with new players, the team also welcomed back former BYU coach Heath Schroyer. Schroyer has an extensive coaching background, from being the head coach at Portland State, the University of Tennessee at Martin and the University of Wyoming to assisting at schools such as UNLV, Fresno State and North Carolina State University.
Schroyer was an assistant under Steve Cleveland at BYU from 1997 until 2001.
“Coach Shroyer has been awesome,” said Braiden Shaw, a 6-foot-9 forward from Eagle, Idaho. “The last couple weeks with summer workouts it’s been fun to watch his basketball mind come out inside of practices. He’ll sit there and he will just pick apart offensive and defensive schemes. It’s fun to see him work.”
Shaw, who is entering his third year in the program, is looking forward to the upcoming season.
“I think this team is going to be really good,” he said. “I really do think that this is going to be one of the best teams that I have been a part of here. It’ll be fun to see all of the pieces come together and kind of fit in that puzzle.”
Shaw and Nixon both said one of the team’s big goals this year is to make it to the NCAA tournament.
“Being able to win a conference championship and just getting back to the tournament would be something that I am focused on,” Nixon said.
Shaw said the team is focused on postseason success.
“I think that we have a very good shot this year,” Shaw said. “I think we have a good schedule coming up. I think we have the right pieces, and we have the right players.”