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BYU basketball: Cougars need a boost from their bench, but who?

Published February 22, 2017 1:57 am
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Much has been made lately of the BYU basketball team's lack of depth and bench scoring, precipitated by the season-ending injuries suffered by starters Kyle Davis and L.J. Rose. If Elijah Bryant and Yoeli Childs were still coming off the bench, like they were when the season started, bench production probably wouldn't be an issue.

But it is, and there doesn't seem to be any help in sight. The current bench players need to improve, and in a hurry, if BYU wants to do anything in March.

One possible candidate to give the Cougars a late-season boost is freshman forward Payton Dastrup, the returned missionary from Mesa, Ariz.

Here's more on Dastrup's difficult first season as he works to shed pounds and get back into shape after a mission to Panama. The likable big guy told Cougar fans to have some patience, and that the best is yet to come.

"We have seen bits and pieces of what I am capable of doing, and once I get my confidence back then I will be able to do a lot to help the team and be able to play my game and be comfortable with the style of play and the coaching staff we have here," he said, vowing to continue to work doubly hard on his conditioning and his shooting ability in the offseason.

And he plans to look for his shot even more this week and next, if given the opportunity to play. He might get that chance, depending on the condition of Childs' ankle. There's some media availability Tuesday night with BYU coach Dave Rose, so more should be revealed then on the injury Childs suffered against Saint Mary's. He returned to the court, but Rose said he's seen a player do that before, only to see increased swelling a day or two after the ankle turn.

"Yeah, [outside] shooting is definitely a part of my game," Dastrup said. "I think my playing in club ball and high school and stuff like that, I kinda grew into that role, being able to stretch the floor and playing on the perimeter as well as playing in the post, because the bigger the guy, the more difficult it is to keep up as a defender on the perimeter, and so I developed that skill set a little bit.

In the preseason and the season so far I've tried to do my best to work with [graduate assistant] Lee Cummard a lot personally, work on that skill set of mid-post and on the perimeter, with my handles as well as my jump shot.

So the coaches have given me the green light to shoot my shot when I feel comfortable, and if it goes in it goes in. If not, we got guys who can go get the rebound and it is all part of the system."

Rose has said the Cougars recruited Dastrup to be a power forward, but the weight he gained on his mission has caused coaches to consider him as a backup to Eric Mika at the five spot. Lately, though, they moved Childs over to the five when Mika goes out and had Dastrup play more of the position they thought he would play, the stretch four.

"I would say I am more comfortable, personally, as a stretch four on the perimeter, pick and pop type game style," Dastrup said. "I am more than comfortable posting up, though. I have developed a knack for being able to pass well out of the post when guys cut.

At high school that is what I did a lot. I posted up and demanded double teams and I would be able to either pass out of it or hit a shot. That's what I was able to pick up just because of the way teams guarded me in high school, and that has carried over to now.

But I have also worked on my shot to be able to provide the team with someone who is a threat on the perimeter so there are four guys out and one guy in and the big guy has more space to operate down low and has more options on the outside when the teams come and collapse on Eric.

We have seen what he is capable of doing, Yoeli as well. They are both dominant inside and I give that guy down there who is going to work an option to pass out to, as well as the guards. That is really important, I feel like."

Has Mika hit a wall? No question, the 6-foot-10 sophomore's shooting and production has dropped off the past four games or so. After surpassing the 20-point barrier 13 times in his first 25 games, Mika hasn't scored more than 18 points in his last four games. His shooting percentages from the field and the free-throw line have also dropped, evidenced by a 3 of 13 outing from the field against San Diego on Feb. 16 and a 4 of 9 performance from the line against Saint Mary's last Saturday.

I asked him after that game if fatigue was setting in.

"Yeah, I mean I was tired," he said, having played 32 minutes against the Gaels, four over his average. "It was a lot of up and down. The season is a long season. It was what, our 29th game or something like that? So, it is hard to just be running up and down for that many minutes at the pace we try and play at.

That's a big part of the end of the season, come this time around. You know, I think the teams that are going to go far and do what they intend to do at the end of the season are going to take care of their bodies and so that's another thing we gotta do. We got to get on that from the get-go right now and starting with icing and hydrating and doing all the right things to make sure that we finish strong."






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