This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Provo • If you thought last year's BYU basketball roster went through a lot of turnover, wait until you get a look at the 2016-17 version. Coach Dave Rose welcomes nine players to the 15-man roster who were not on the team last year as he enters his 12th season at the helm.
"It reminds me of my days at [Dixie] Junior College," Rose said at a news conference in the BYU Broadcasting Building to introduce this year's squad. "We had a new roster every year, it seemed like."
Only two players who logged significant minutes last year sophomore guard Nick Emery and senior forward Kyle Davis immediately return from the team that went 26-11 and lost in the NIT semifinals last March. Two-year starting center Corbin Kaufusi is playing football for the Cougars this fall, but will observe one or two basketball practices a week and rejoin the basketball team when that season concludes.
"I am going to go out on a limb and say we might be the only team in the NCAA [whose] starting center for the last two years is playing football," Rose said. "I think that might be fair to say."
Added Davis, back for a final year:: "I miss my buddy, but I probably won't be hurt as much after practice."
Even before the 6-foot-10 Kaufusi who averaged 4.9 points and 4.7 rebounds last year returns in late December, Rose believes he has assembled a killer front court with Davis, returned LDS missionaries Eric Mika and Payton Dastrup, freshman sensation Yoeli Childs, sophomore Braiden Shaw and junior Jamal Aytes, finally healthy after three ankle surgeries.
"To me, there's no question that we have the deepest, most talented front line since I've been here, at least on paper," Rose said. "We will see how it plays out on the court. We have adjusted quite a few things offensively to use that, and we've adjusted quite a few things defensively. I think we will have bigger, stronger, more physical players on the floor, for more minutes, during a game. That should help us be more consistent."
The 6-foot-8 Davis, who averaged 11.9 points and 7.5 rebounds last year, said the Cougars will make up what they lack in experience playing together with skill and talent. Mika played his freshman year before a church mission to Italy, while Houston transfer LJ Rose has plenty of experience and Elon transfer Elijah Bryant was the freshman of the year in his conference back East before sitting out last year due to NCAA transfer rules.
"I have said it before, but this is probably the most skilled team I have ever been on, from top to bottom," Davis said. "Every guy is great in their own way. We have a lot of offensive talent, so it is going to be fun. The summer has been really big for us, geling together."
The Cougars will hold their first practice on Monday at the Marriott Center, then jump over to the new basketball annex that is not yet completed (Dec. 1 is the target date) but can house a basketball practice.
The 6-foot-10 Mika will be there, invalidating rumors from last winter that the talented big man who averaged 11 points and six boards his freshman season was transferring to rival Utah.
"Yeah, that was blown out of proportion," Mika said Thursday, laughing. "That was something that I didn't even hear about until I got home. I was in the airport, and some guy came up to me and asked, 'So, are you going to the U.? I was like, 'No, where did that come from?' So, the rumors happen, and they spread, and Utah is small enough that it seemed like the whole world knew about it."
With WCC foes Gonzaga and Saint Mary's in all the preseason rankings, the new-look Cougars just hope the world finds out about them, too, shortly after they learn more about each other.
Twitter: @drewjay Media day highlights
• Entering his 12th season, coach Dave Rose said the latest scan for cancer and a checkup showed him to be cancer-free and totally healthy.
• Rose welcomes nine players to the roster who were not on the team last year.
• Rose said two-year starting center Corbin Kaufusi, who is playing football this fall, will attend one or two basketball practices a week and rejoin the team when football is over.