There are many new faces on the BYU men’s basketball team this year, but it was the familiar ones that shined the brightest in Wednesday’s Cougar Tipoff.
The team was split into “Blue” and “White” teams with Blue consisting of mostly returning players while White featured newcomers or returned missionaries.
Perhaps the best news for Cougar fans is that the team has found its replacement for Eric Mika in sophomore forward Yoeli Childs.
He finished the game with a team-high 23 points on 11-for-16 shooting and seven rebounds.
Childs started the game on fire, hitting mid-range jump shots, and-one layups, and finishing off a couple alley-oops as well.
“He’s expanded his game,” said coach Dave Rose. “He can hit the jumper now.”
The connection was apparent between Childs and junior guard Elijah Bryant, who finished the night with a game-high eight assists, including one on an alley-oop to Childs.
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“I’m an Elijah fan,” Rose said. “I think that he has the physicality, the diversity and the skill and he’s got a big heart too.”
One thing that Rose mentioned in the preseason was the team’s increased focus on their half-court offense and not becoming stagnant.
The team showed this improvement early on, passing the ball to find open shots, and executing the pick-and-roll to perfection several times.
The ball movement led to several open shots, especially on the perimeter.
Guards Zac Seljaas, TJ Haws and Elijah Bryant finished the first half 5-for-6 from 3-point range, putting the Blue team up 45-35 heading into the break.
Some of the pleasant surprises among the newcomers and returned missionaries included Jahshire Hardnett, Dalton Nixon and Luke Worthington.
Hardnett finished with 14 points, five rebounds and seven assists. He also went a perfect 8-for-8 from the free throw line.
Nixon and Worthington proved to be a dynamic duo in the post, showing off an array of offensive moves and finishing with contact.
The pair led the white team in scoring; Nixon with 19 points and Worthington with 16.
“Dalton, Luke and Zac, those three guys coming off missions; having played here for a year, we need them to step in and play all the way through,” Rose said. “We need those guys that have experience to step up and contribute right away.”
Haws and Bryant each added two more 3-pointers in the second half.
Their offensive input combined with Childs’ dominance gave the blue team the 88-68 win in the end.
The team now looks forward to their first exhibition game against New Mexico on Friday.
“I had a dream last night about playing in The Pit (Dreamstyle Arena),” Childs said. “Everyone on the team is excited.”
The game will take place Oct. 27 at 7:30 p.m. MDT in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
“I love my teammates, but it will be nice to play someone else,” Nixon added.
All proceeds from the exhibition match will go to victims of Hurricane Harvey in Houston.
“(It’s a) great cause,” Childs said of the event. “Awesome that we can go out and do something that’s going to donate a lot of money to the victims of the hurricanes. It’s kind of a win-win.”
The Cougars will return home to play two exhibition games the following week against Westminster Nov. 1 and Colorado College Nov. 8 before opening the regular season vs. Mississippi Valley State Nov. 11 at the Marriott Center.