The BYU men’s basketball team might seem like an open book, but they have some secrets up their sleeves. Here are 13 lesser-known facts about the BYU basketball team:
1. Ziggy Ansah tried out twice
Ezekiel “Ziggy” Ansah, the fifth overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, tried out twice for the BYU basketball team in 2008 and 2009, but didn’t make it. At that point of rejection, the 6-foot-6 native of Ghana decided to try a new sport in football, where he excelled and is now a starting defensive end for the Detroit Lions.
2. Chris Collinsworth endured mission attack
Chris Collinsworth, the older brother of current sophomore guard Kyle Collinsworth and former Cougar himself, served his LDS mission in Australia, where he and his companion were attacked by three men wielding knives. While outnumbered and unarmed, the two endured only a few cuts and bruises and returned to proselyting within a couple of days.
3. Tyler Haws has superstitions
Tyler Haws, the WCC’s leading scorer, has a plethora of superstitions while on the court. The junior guard aligns his free throw shots with the nail on the charity stripe, and then moves four boards to the right before releasing his almost automatic shot. Haws is one of the best free throw shooters in BYU history, so who can argue with the result? Haws also admits to tying and untying his shoes “seven or eight times” before each game to make sure it doesn’t happen during a game.
4. Mark Pope has championship ring
The Cougars already have a player with a championship ring sitting on their bench. Assistant coach Mark Pope helped the University of Kentucky Wildcats win their sixth national championship in 1996, as they defeated Syracuse in the NCAA Tournament final. The Indiana Pacers later drafted Pope in the second round of the NBA Draft, and he spent nine seasons in the NBA for three different teams.
5. Family legacies are common
BYU has a history of basketball families making their way through the Cougar ranks. Cooper Ainge, the son of legendary Cougar and current Boston Celtics executive Danny Ainge, is serving his mission in Chile and will rejoin the team upon his return for the 2016 season. Tyler Haws’s father Marty played for the Cougars from 1986-90, while little brother T.J. has also committed to Provo. BYU recruits Nick Emery and Jake Toolson are also relatives of former players Jackson Emery (2008-11) and Andy Toolson (1987-90).
6. Dreams continue past Provo
Two former Cougar basketball players are currently continuing their dreams of basketball success in the NBA. Former BYU sensation Jimmer Fredette, who was the 10th overall draft pick in 2011, is a rotation player for the Sacramento Kings, where he shoots 39.5 percent from three-point range in an average of 15.3 minutes per game. Joining him in the NBA is Brandon Davies, an undrafted free agent, who is seeing playing time for the Philadelphia 76ers, averaging 2.5 points in 11.6 minutes per game. Also, Jordan Cameron, the all-star tight end of the NFL’s Cleveland Browns, redshirted for BYU basketball during the 2006-07 season, but decided to transfer to USC to play football, and was subsequently drafted by the Browns in the fourth round of the 2011 NFL Draft.
7. All-American already on roster
Junior guard Skyler Halford already has quite a basketball career under his belt. He led Salt Lake Community College to a 51–14 overall record during his two years there, and was named a first-team junior college all-American. Halford averaged 17.4 points per game while shooting 39.3 percent from beyond the arc. BYU fans shouldn’t be surprised by his ability to get hot on the court.
8. Three freshmen are two-sport athletes
While basketball is their first choice of sports, three BYU freshmen also excelled on the gridiron. Frank Bartley played wide receiver at his high school in Louisiana, where he racked up more than 800 yards receiving. Andrew Johnston played defensive back at Snow Canyon High, intercepting four passes during his senior year. Luke Worthington received all-state and all-region honors en route to leading his Wisconsin high school football team to a state championship last season.
9. Players are multi-lingual
The BYU Cougars 2014 roster and staff have combined to serve missions in five countries and five different states. The team members speak five different languages including English, Spanish, Portuguese, Russian and Tagalog.
10. Lone Peak connection is alive and well
Four current BYU Cougars played their high school basketball for Lone Peak High School in Alpine under head coach Quincy Lewis. These include Tyler Haws, Nate Austin, Josh Sharp and Eric Mika. All four players have started at least one game this season for BYU and others are not far behind. T.J. Haws, Nick Emery and Austin Toolson all have committed to play for the Cougars in the future, giving the school 30 minutes north of Provo the moniker of “BYU Farming Grounds.”
11. Tallest Player in BYU history is Bradley
Shawn Bradley, who stood at a gigantic 7-feet-6-inches tall, is the tallest player ever at BYU. The center only played for the Cougars during the 1990-91 season, where he led the nation in blocks per game at 5.2, while contributing 14.8 points and 7.7 rebounds per contest. Bradley was drafted first overall in the 1993 NBA Draft by the Philadelphia 76ers. He also played for the New Jersey Nets and the Dallas Mavericks during his 12-year NBA career.
12. Venue changed in 1971
The Cougars didn’t always play in the enormous Marriott Center. They played for ten years in the much smaller Smith Fieldhouse from 1961-71. The Marriott Center opened in 1971, giving BYU one of the most intimidating sports venues in the country. The Marriott Center holds 20,900 at its capacity, making it the sixth largest NCAA basketball arena.
13. Phi Slamma Jamma
The nickname of the University of Houston’s 1982-84 basketball teams is well known for featuring the talents of future NBA hall-of-famers Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler, and using throw-down dunks and a fast style of play. Much less known to fans is current BYU head coach Dave Rose captained the team through those years and has adopted the fast pace the Houston Cougars used to the current fast pace the BYU Cougars now employ.