These are just my thoughts and I certainly welcome any disagreement or discussion. I was very frustrated watching the game yesterday where a Pepperdine team beat us by playing as a team and using their strenghts. The sad truth is that there is no amount of coaching that can overcome quickness on the basketball court and that has always been a weakeness of BYU teams.
THIS YEAR’S TEAM
I watch this year’s BYU basketball team and I realize that it is just an average team that would finish near the bottom in the Big 12. I keep hoping that I will see signs of life that would change that opinion but then there are games like the one at Pepperdine that tell me it is wishful thinking.
The college game is a guard oriented game and BYU has some good guards but you have to have an inside presence and that is where we are woefully lacking. Couple that with the inability to run a half court offense and any opponent that figures out how to guard the arc against us puts us in big trouble.
Kyle Collinsworth is a very good player and does what he does as well as anyone in the game. But he is not a player that can carry a team simply because he lacks an outside shot. As I stated, the college game is guard oriented and that means your guards have to be a threat to score from the outside. I am sure that he has worked countless hours trying to develop an outside shot (having one would make him a sure fire NBA pick and millions of dollars) but if you watch his shooting motion it is very mechanical and there is no fluidity in the shot.
Nick Emery and Zac Seljaas are good freshman and they have that fluid outside shot that Collinsworth lacks. But they are freshman and they make a lot of freshman mistakes. At the high school level most Division I players are so much better that they can get away with doing things that at the next level will not work. Emery is a classic example of this tendency. I am sure in HS he could blow by people and score but at this level he gets himself in trouble over and over. I believe that Nick will learn as he progresses and make better decisions in the next few years. Seljaas needs to develop more of a game where he puts the ball on the floor and takes it to the rim. It will benefit him greatly. At his size he can create a lot of mismatches for opponents and he has to take advantage of the situations. Fischer is a great example. Last year all he did was try to spot up and take the three. This year he is driving the ball and scoring and it has made him a more complete player.
Corbin Kaufusi is still riding the label of potential and huge upside. I was one who bought into that completely. But as the season has gone forward he has actually regressed. Again, he lacks that natural fluidity around the basket that you see in other players. He appears to have gotten bigger and perhaps he has spent to much time in the weight room. At some point more bulk will not help you. In the Pepperdine game he had an open dunk but for some reason he had to slowly gather himself and that allowed the defense to recover and block the shot. I am not sure that he is ever going to achieve what so many thought he might.
Jamal Aytes has been the biggest disappointment to me. I really thought he would bring a big body down low and help give us a presence in the post. But he seems totally lost out there right now. I don’t know if it is the injuries that are hampering him but at this point I don’t see him getting many more minutes this season and next year with the three big men entering the program those minutes might be even more restricted. He may have to look to play at a lower level where he could transfer without sitting out a year.
Nate Austin is what he is. I think he peaked in his freshman year and actually shot the ball better then. I suspect he has no confidence in making a shot and so he does not take them. He can get a rebound underneath and his first look it to pass it back outside to a teammate. On offense he is moved away from the basket to create more room for Davis but teams now recognize this and cheat to help on Davis. They don’t consider Austin a threat at all. I think Rose understands this but he does not have any other options right now. You have to love Austin’s hustle and he gives it everything he has when he is on the court.
Kyle Davis has been like a yo-yo this season. Against smaller opponents he can dominate but against bigger and more athletic defenders he struggles to find his shot. He still plays good defense and rebounds very well. If I am the opposing coach I watch the video and realize his go to move is to spin to his left and take the baby hook. I coach my players to cheat to this side and force him further from the rim. If he would just start the move and then reverse pivot I think he would find himself with a lot of open layups.
Jordan Chatman is the one guard we have on the team that can play on ball defense and stop an opponent from penetrating. He looks like a solid player but does not the get the minutes right now to prove what he can do. He comes into a game and if he misses a couple of shots he is coming right back out. That tends to make a kid play tentative. I have hopes that next year he will blossom as he gains the confidence that made him the player of the year when he came out of high school in Washington.
I have no idea what Braiden Shaw and Jakob Hartsock can do because we have not seen them enough to form and opinion. It will be very interesting to see how they fit into the puzzle next season. Minutes up front are going to be very competitive.
NEXT YEAR’S TEAM
We all have lofty expectations for next season with the return from missions of Eric Mica, Payton Dastrup and TJ Haws. Add Elijah Bryant (redshirting) and Yoeli Childs to those returning from this year’s team and there is a lot of talent on the roster.
I see a starting lineup of Emery, Bryant, Davis, Mika and Haws. Over the course of the season Davis’ minutes could diminish as the younger players develop.
Bryant will either play the shooting guard or the point or it could be Emery at the point. If you watch video of Bryant you see a guard that can do much of what Collinsworth does but has a fluid outside shot and that will make him very dangerous. He is big and physical and does not shy away from contact. As a freshman at Elon he only shot 38% and that will have to get better but he will not be asked to shoot as much at BYU. He also was 75% from the free throw line.
I did not put Dastrup or Childs in the starting lineup but I think both will see significant minutes. Dastrup is not a quick player but he has a good outside shot and as a power forward can stretch a defense. I can very easily see him in the high post with Mika in the low post. You will not be able to cheat on him as they do with Austin. Childs is just going to be a beast in the low post and by his second year you will not be able to keep him out of the lineup. He is a quick jumper and will pound the offensive boards.
TJ Haws has the potential to be a great guard at BYU. I think he is more advanced than Tyler coming out of high school. He can put the ball on the floor better and has a better three point shot. Tyler had to square himself for the three pointer and it was a bit slow in coming off but TJ can make his on the run. He is also a better passer. He is a kid that really benefitted from having to play against his older brother and it forced him to get much better. I trust that Marty will put him on a schedule that will have him ready to play when the season starts. He gets home early enough to get into top shape.
We all know what Eric Mika can do. He is an aircraft carrier in the middle and if he can stay out of foul trouble he can be a dominant force inside.
There is still a glaring weakness on this team. There is not a true point guard. I am talking about a player with the quickness to break down a defender off the dribble and penetrate to the paint. We see them against us all the time and they cause havoc with any defense. Perhaps someone will step up and prove me wrong (I sure hope so) but it may also force Rose to find a scholarship and go out and get a JC transfer to fill that role.
I am a big fan of Dave Rose. He is a great guy and works well with the media and is a great recruiter. He came up through the JC ranks and that is always a problem at the Division I level. At a JC you only have a player for 1-2 years and so the teams tend to play a run and gun offense that relies on talent instead of a set offense. It is a continued weakness of BYU that we do not have a half court offense that will end up getting players open for a good shot underneath. Roger Reid was a master of this and he made a lot of journeymen post players look pretty good. I think that Rose needs to look at his staff and make some changes. Loyalty is a great thing but it does not pay the bills. We need some assistants that can do three things:
1. Develop and install an effective half court offense that will get the ball to our big men in a scoring position. Does not mean we abandon a fast paced offense but it allows us to adjust when the break is not there.
2. Work with our big men to help them improve their game on offense. I think Kaufusi would be the biggest beneficiary of someone that could tutor him and make him more of a basketball player instead of at 6’10 athlete.
3. Set up a defensive game plan and force players to buy into playing defense. If you don’t play hard defense you don’t play.
This year’s team is one that the sum of the parts does not equal the individual talent. There is a clear lack of cohesiveness and they seem to be playing more as individuals than as a team. Next year’s team is one that must develop that chemistry to play together because the individual talent is as good as I have seen at BYU for a long time. Think back to Ainge, Kite, Roberts, Craig, Durrant, Runia and Trumbo in the late 1970s and early 80s. I think the next couple of years will determine if Rose is the coach for BYU or not.