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BYU basketball: Cougars will have big hole in the middle if Mika leaves

Published April 27, 2017 12:42 pm
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In his 30-minute discussion with reporters who cover the BYU basketball program last Tuesday, head coach Dave Rose offered little information on which way he believes sophomore center Eric Mika is leaning.

Will Mika stay declared for the NBA Draft on June 22, or return to BYU for his junior season?

Thursday, CBS Sports ranked the top 75 prospects for the NBA Draft, and the 6-foot-10, 230-pound Mika landed at No. 75.

"NBA-power forward size, diversifying offensive game, and elite rebounder already. Could use adding a 3-point shot to his game, and that's far from impossible," the website noted.

Coincidentally, one-time BYU commit Frank Jackson of Lone Peak/Duke is listed at No. 64.

Only 60 players will be drafted.

Personally, I don't know which way Mika is leaning, but most folks I've talked to seem to think he's leaving. Some say a lot depends on how his pre-draft workouts go. Others say he's gone, no matter what.

I do think it was telling that Mika has mostly stayed in Provo this spring and completed his winter semester schoolwork. He took his last final, for an accounting class, on Tuesday while Rose was chatting with the media.

"I think Eric has done a great job [preparing for NBA pre-draft workouts]," Rose said. "He's worked really hard and he has spent a lot of time in here [the practice facility] on his own. He has kinda flown back and forth on the weekends to get competition against professional guys. But he is right now taking his last final, too. I mean, a lot of guys just leave their academics and take off, but he's finished his semester pretty well. I hope he does well in school."

As previously reported, Rose was not surprised when Mika declared for the draft (but did not hire an agent) on March 22.

"I was pretty prepared for that," Rose said. "I felt like the feedback that we got back from the undergraduate steering committee was to a point where [he would do it]. And he had a couple of teams that had expressed interest to us as a staff that wanted to bring him in and work him out, and the only way that you can actually pursue that is to put your name in the draft. So we were expecting that."

Obviously, the Cougars will have a very difficult time replacing Mika if he does leave. His backup the second half of the 2016-17 season, two-sport player Corbin Kaufusi, will concentrate on football in the immediate future and is probably finished playing basketball, although Rose left open the possibility.

Two possibilities are returned missionaries Luke Worthington and Ryan Andrus. Worthington (who returns in May) was listed at 6-10 and Andrus (who returned a few days ago) at 6-11 on BYU's rosters before they left.

Of those two, Andrus was more skilled offensively in 2014-15, but that isn't saying much. Rose said Tuesday the American Fork High product was brought in to play the four spot (power forward), but mostly played the five, with his back to the basket.

"We will have to see how he comes back," Rose said. "His body looks pretty good compared to some other big guys who have come back and gained a lot of weight and got a lot bigger, or have lost a lot of weight. He looks about the same. But he's a skilled kid and we would love to have him in a position where we could spread the floor a little bit more and give more space to our guards. We will just see how that works. But he is capable of playing with his back to the basket."

Having recently signed Boise guard Rylan Bergersen, the Cougars have one or two more scholarships to give out, depending on whether Mika returns or not.

Vanquishthefoe.com reported Wednesday that one potential prospect is Jerell Springer, a 6-foot-5 guard from Las Vegas who is scheduled to visit BYU's campus next week. Springer is completing his senior year at Desert Pines High, but is still unsigned.

He was not allowed to play basketball his senior season because he transferred from Shadow Ridge High after playing there his first three seasons of prep ball and did not meet the requirements for transferring and maintaining eligibility in Nevada's prep system.

Here's what Rose said Tuesday when asked what types of players he is looking for to complete his roster for next year's team:

"The only way you can really look at this is to look at every spot, every position, and make sure you've got guys in the pipeline at every place," he said. "If you think you are going to plan this out for more than a year, you are going to get surprised. So I think that is the challenge we have as a staff, and I think that's what we are involved in. I really like the players, the potential players. I really like the pool that we have. And I really do believe that with a new coach added to our staff, and hopefully some real reach with that individual's connections and personality, that we will be able to keep this thing going and compete for championships."






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