The BYU men’s basketball team held its annual media day Oct. 5, marking the start of another year full of hopes and opportunities.
BYU head coach Dave Rose made it clear that the team’s primary goal is returning to the NCAA tournament this year, following what he called a “disappointing end” to their last season.
The team begins its official training camp on Oct. 9. However, over the summer, the team brought players in to get newcomers and returning missionaries into prime physical shape for the season.
BYU basketball will have six players returning from last season and one true freshman, Rylan Bergersen, joining the roster.
Three transfer students and four returned missionaries make up the rest of the squad.
Ten of the players have previously played for BYU at one point or another, giving the team some much-needed experience, considering there are no seniors this year.
“(You have) these returning guys that just played last season, and then you’ve got these returned missionaries who have all played on tournament teams and understand their role,” Rose said on who will step into a leadership role. “There’s some experience where that leadership is going to have to come from.”
Big names returning from last year include Nick Emery, Yoeli Childs and T.J. Haws, who each made All-WCC teams.
Rose said junior guard Elijah Bryant played all of last season with injuries, and looks to make his return to full form this year.
“Elijah has great potential and has really overcome some tough injury problems,” Rose said. “He’s playing great right now.”
Rose expressed similar excitement over the development of Childs, who will have to make up for the loss of former star center Eric Mika on both ends of the floor.
He added that Emery has focused on his defensive game and becoming a more confident leader, while Haws worked out with former player and graduate assistant Lee Cummard to use his “slight” body frame to his advantage.
“Everyone on our team can shoot the ball,” Haws said. “That makes it way fun on offense because you have a lot of options, a lot of threats. I think we’re a versatile team and that’s going to help us a lot.”
Some returning players didn’t get the chance to play much last season and are now looking to prove themselves in a new season.
Forward Payton Dastrup, for example, lost 40 pounds over the summer and worked on expanding his range to help space the floor.
Rose said improving the Cougars’ half-court offense and 3-point defense have been a huge focus for the team.
The addition of the Marriott Center Annex has been crucial in the team’s offseason, allowing players to work out and improve their game on their own time, instead of being dependent on a gym being available.
Rose said after being plagued by injuries nearly all of last season, having a healthy squad is important.
“I’m really optimistic about what we can get done over the next few weeks,” Rose said. “To finish how we did last year was really disappointing, and we hope to do a lot better this year.”
Rose and Dastrup both acknowledged the loss of Mika as a low post presence, but were quick to praise the effort and development of the big men coming in his stead.
“We’re moving on from what Eric did last year, and we’re using the guys that we have this year to be able to make some noise and have a lot of success,” Dastrup said.
The team opens the season with the Cougar Tipoff on Oct. 25 and exhibition games on Nov. 1 and 8.