Last Thursday night, while covering the West Coast Conference tournament at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas, Cougar assistant coaches Mark Pope and Terry Nashif were sitting courtside, next to me, scouting the Portland-Loyola Marymount game.
Because it was a first-round game, not a lot of reporters were there, so Pope and Nashif sat in the press area, carefully taking notes.
My Deseret News colleague Dick Harmon and I had the live stream of the Utah high school basketball tournament on our laptops — the Lone Peak-Bingham game. The Miners pushed the Knights, seeking their fourth straight state championship, to the limit. But in the end, Lone Peak outlasted Bingham in double overtime in a classic game.
Pope kept one eye on the Portland-LMU game, playing in front of him, and one eye on Lone Peak-Bingham, playing on my laptop.
Pope was eager to watch a couple of future Cougars, T.J. Haws, a senior, and Frank Jackson, a sophomore, do their thing for Lone Peak. Haws finished with a career-high 42 points, and Jackson had 20, that night.
With every basket by Haws and Jackson, I’m sure Pope was seeing
years into the future, imagining them wearing BYU blue. Probably just like a lot of Cougar fans.
By the end of the Lone Peak-Bingham game, this Pope was inspired.
Haws is leaving for a mission to France next month and won’t enroll at BYU until 2016. By then, he’ll be reunited with former Lone Peak teammates Eric Mika (who is also mission-bound) and Nick Emery (who is currently serving). Jackson will officially sign in 2016.
Everybody knows how important, yet how unpredictable, recruiting is.
Teams don’t win championships, and go deep into the NCAA tournament, without great players. Coaches are responsible for stocking their rosters with players, and then developing them.
With this in mind, let’s look at the past decade of BYU basketball recruiting.
Some of these players are among the best-ever to play for the Cougars. Others never suited up for BYU or had minimal impact.
Let’s look at the classes signed by coach Dave Rose — bearing in mind these are only those that signed during the November early signing period:
2004: Keena Young, David Burgess, Lee Cummard, Chris Miles, Trent Plaisted
2005: Fernando Malaman, Rashaun Broadus, Jackson Emery, James Anderson
2006: Noah Hartsock, Jordan Cameron
2007: Nick Martineau, Jean Carlos Otero, Lamont Morgan, Jimmer Fredette, Chris Collinsworth
2008: Charles Abouo
2009: Brandon Davies, Tyler Haws
2010: Anson Winder, Kyle Collinsworth
2011: Isaac Neilson, DeMarcus Harrison, Ian Harward, Nate Austin
2012: Cory Calvert, Jordan Chatman
2013: Luke Worthington, Jakob Hartsock, Eric Mika, Braiden Shaw, Nick Emery
Not all players, of course, are expected to be superstars. Some on this line had very good careers as role players.
Cameron and Otero never played for the Cougars. Cameron’s story is the most widely known and most interesting. He transferred from BYU to USC to play football, and plays tight end for the Cleveland Browns. He was a Pro Bowl Selection last season.
Chris Collinsworth’s promising career was cut short due to injuries. Harrison appeared to be a future star, but he ended up transferring to Clemson after one season.
Still, there are plenty of familiar names that starred for BYU from this group — Young, Cummard, Plaisted, Emery, Hartsock, Fredette, Davies, Haws, Winder, Kyle Collinsworth and Mika.
Fredette, of course, was a consensus All-America and BYU’s all-time leading scorer, while Haws is expected to surpass him next season. Emery is the all-time leader in steals. Davies is among the top players in school history in scoring, rebounding and field goal percentage.
That’s a pretty darn good nucleus of players. No wonder since 2006, the Cougars have gone to the NCAA tournament six times, and advanced to the Sweet 16 in 2011.
Rose has been able to nab many of the best LDS players in the country, though not all, of course. Jabari Parker, who ended up at Duke and could be a top 3 pick in the NBA draft this summer, comes to mind. Rose has also been effective at signing players who are not LDS but live the LDS lifestyle and fit in well at BYU.
Rose has also been able to welcome transfers to the program like Chase Fischer (Wake Forest) and Jamal Aytes (UNLV), who will both be eligible next season.
So, what does the future hold?
In addition to the Lone Peak boys, the Cougars will also have Payton Dastrup, Ryan Andrus, Jake Toolson and Dalton Nixon in the fold. Bountiful’s Zac Seljaas is set to sign in 2015.
Jakob Hartsock, who signed last November, is currently a missionary serving in Las Vegas. He actually attended a bit of the WCC tournament to see the Cougars and his older brother, Noah, who is a grad assistant on BYU’s staff. Chatman, the son of former BYU star Jeff Chatman, returns home from his mission later this month.
On Saturday afternoon, BYU’s present and future converged once again.
At the same time that Tyler Haws was helping lead BYU to a victory over LMU in the WCC quarterfinals, T.J. was knocking down eight 3-pointers to help lead the Knights to their fourth consecutive state title.
The future — and long-term future — for BYU basketball looks bright.
I’m just hoping I’m around long enough to watch these kids play.