The BYU men’s basketball team has started their arduous two-a-day practice schedule to prepare for the 2019-20 season. With the recently-released schedule, the Cougars are expected to have a difficult season, and they have a lot to organize before then.
The men’s team will include seven seniors competing for playing time this year. With unexpected delays and injuries, leadership positions are yet to be determined. As the team adjusts to a new coaching staff and new opportunities, each player is determining where his position is on the team.
“We just have a lot of things to figure out right now,” head coach Mark Pope said, referring to roster decisions with TJ Haws and Zac Seljaas absent from the court. “With Yoeli (Childs) missing the first nine games, we’re just dealing with an interesting roster feel right now in terms of trying to figure out how we’re going to play and what we’re going to do.”
While each of the three seniors have faced different challenges, Haws, Seljaas and Childs are expected to return during the upcoming season.
Although NCAA rulings affirmed Childs ineligible to play for the first nine games, Haws and Seljaas faced physical trials earlier this year, as they both recently underwent small surgeries for respective knee and foot injuries. Haws and Seljaas are expected to be fully recovered and approved to play by the start of the season, Pope said.
With three of the seven seniors injured or unable to play, preseason practices have given opportunities for other players to demonstrate their skill set. Although the practices have only just begun, Pope said he has enjoyed watching the different leadership qualities develop and appear in his players as they determine their position on the court.
“It’s a positive leadership by committee situation,” Pope said. “I think sometimes you have leadership by committee because there’s nobody that’s ready to show some leadership skills. On this team, we have a lot of guys that are interested in trying to participate.”
One of the upcoming seniors is 6-foot-7 forward Dalton Nixon. He said he has never been on a team with such a large number of seniors.
“It’s a good opportunity for each of us to step up,” Nixon said. “We feel like we have a chip on our shoulder. Each day we want perfection. We want to do things the right way.”
Gavin Baxter, a 6-foot-9 sophomore forward, said each player on the team is important, and he believes this opportunity will allow him, and other teammates, like Nixon, an opportunity to showcase their talents. He said it gives the team more opportunities to see what they are made of.