BYU men’s basketball sets sights on NCAA Tournament

Ari Davis
The BYU basketball team huddles during its game against No. 1 Gonzaga on Feb. 2, 2017. (Ari Davis)

The BYU men’s basketball team wants more after a 22-12 record and a trip to the National Invitation Tournament last season. This year, the goal is much higher.

Despite not having any seniors on the roster, BYU coach Dave Rose has big plans for the team.

“There’s no question that the goal for this group is to get back to the NCAA tournament,” Rose said during the team’s media day.

Last year was the first time in Rose’s 12 years as head coach that he missed the NCAA tournament in back-to-back years.

This year’s team has three players who have been to the NCAA tournament before, including sophomore Ryan Andrus, sophomore Dalton Nixon and junior Luke Worthington.

“Three of those guys coming off missions played on NCAA tournament teams, which I think is really important for the experience of our team and our group,” Rose said.

With less than a month left before the start of the regular season, Rose said the team will practice six days a week. He noted that the team is in great shape but needs to be ready for what’s ahead.

“The competition comes quick,” Rose said. “We’ve got to be good early, we’ve got to be good in the middle and we’ve got to be great late.”

Rose explained that Yoeli Childs, TJ Haws and Nick Emery have all put themselves in elite positions and will be joined by Elijah Bryant, who has great potential.

“Those four guys will probably be the core of our group to get this started, but I’m excited to see the rest of the guys and how they fit in,” Rose said.

Haws played last season after coming off of a two-year mission, averaging 13.8 points per game.

“I got home in March of last year, so it was definitely a different experience this summer than last,” Haws said. “I started out in shape, which helped me a lot. It was great for me to have five or six months to really work on my game and get better.”

Rose knows that returning from a mission can be difficult and was impressed with how Haws returned.

“What he did last year was tremendous, as what Nick (Emery) did two years ago,” Rose said. “The most important part is to build on that.”

He also hopes to see more confidence coming from Emery this season.

“We’ve got to get him in a position that he’s really comfortable with,” Rose said. “He’s got to get the ball in his hands a little more than he had it in his hands last year.”

Rose added that he has seen terrific improvement from Emery in the last few weeks.

Childs talked about recent practices with Greg Wrubell on “Behind the Mic” and said it has been “very intense” with new associate head coach Heath Schroyer there.

“He’s on every single guy, every single play,” Childs said. “He’s kind of a perfectionist and I love that.”

Schroyer returned to BYU this summer as an associate head coach after coaching at North Carolina State and had nothing but good things to say about the team during his interview with Wrubell.

“These kids work extremely hard,” Schroyer said. “I think we have some talented pieces.  I’ve been really impressed.”

The team takes the court on Oct. 25 for the annual Cougar Tipoff at 7 p.m. MDT.

The Cougars then play their first preseason game on Nov. 1 against Westminster College, with their first regular season game coming Nov. 11 against Mississippi Valley State.

Tipoff for both games is scheduled for 7 p.m.

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