Friday night’s game between BYU and UVU is a first of the season, a first of a four-year series of games scheduled and a first time facing former BYU basketball assistant coach Mark Pope — but to senior Kyle Collinsworth it’s just another “huge” game.
“Every game has meaning and this one’s the next game. It’s a huge game and we have to approach every game like that this year,” Collinsworth said. “It has an impact when it comes to March, so we’re going to try to get that mindset a little better this year, just focus on the next game, give it all we have and take it game by game.”
For Collinsworth, a game against a neighboring university is just another game to get the young players on the BYU basketball team time on the court.
“Every game has meaning and this ones the next game. It’s a huge game and we have to approach every game like that this year.” —Kyle Collinsworth, senior
“We’re a completely different team and we have a lot of young guys with only three seniors,” Collinsworth said. “You can practice a ton, but its about getting those game reps in. We’ve got a couple games under our belt and one more tomorrow. It just takes time.”
Despite Collinsworth’s mentality that UVU is just another game, BYU is in a unique position. In March, BYU assistant basketball coach Mark Pope was named the new head basketball coach at UVU. Now BYU will play a team with a coach who knows the inner workings of the program on top of the emotions of the first game of the season, something BYU head basketball coach Dave Rose recognizes.
“When you think about your preparation for your first game, there’s always a lot of anxiety and excitement,” Rose said. “There’s just emotion and a lot of new things that you’re wondering how your guys are actually going to play and you throw this little dynamic in and you don’t think it would be that big of a deal, but it’s a big deal.”
And the deal is Rose has put himself in a unique position. While he typically likes to support his former coaches, he doesn’t want to in this particular case.
“I want all my guys to be really successful and have great careers and he’s starting his head coaching career playing us and I don’t want him to win, so that’s kind of weird,” Rose said. “He and Lee Anne are great people. Once the game is over we can go back to being normal for another year until we play again.”
Rose has prepared for the cross town team taught by a coach who said he would bring some of BYU’s playing style to UVU.
“We’re going to play fast, furious and free,” Pope said in a March press conference. “It’s a hard way to play, but when you get there, it’s the best way to play in the world.”
“I know coaches who don’t like to play their friends. But who is more fun to play sports against than a brother? You can go hard and both compete, then be fine after the game. We love the chance to build this series with BYU.” —Mark Pope, UVU head men’s basketball coach
For Pope, playing his old team is a fun way to kick off his career as a head coach.
“I know coaches who don’t like to play their friends,” Mark says. “But who is more fun to play sports against than a brother? You can go hard and both compete, then be fine after the game. We love the chance to build this series with BYU.”
Plus, this is an opportunity for growth. The growth comes from more Utah Valley residents seeing his team, and he even hopes to convert some BYU fans to Wolverine fans (without taking away the fans love for BYU). He told Utah Valley Magazine he is asking for “Wolverine Wednesdays.”
“I ask them to wear green one day a week,” he says. “That’s it. It’s green. It’s not red. It’s green. Plus, it gives them a chance to wear something other than the blue they always wear.”
But this basketball game isn’t on a Wednesday — it’s on a Friday night. Either way, both teams are expecting an enthusiastic gym full of fans.
“Utah Valley I’m not sure if it’s a cross town rivalry, but it’s exciting,” said senior Nate Austin. “There will be great energy in the gym, a good atmosphere. I think most importantly it’s the first game of the year. I think guys are just excited to play against someone else. You have a game that counts toward our schedule and resume. We’re excited to play.”
BYU and UVU men’s basketball teams play at 7 p.m. in the Marriott Center. The women’s basketball teams play each other at 3 p.m. in the Marriott Center.