It’s the first year BYU has had post depth, but now the bench just got a little shorter.
BYU basketball senior Kyle Davis will undergo knee surgery this next week which will end not only this season, but his college basketball career.
“It’s tough. You spend so much time, basically your whole life, preparing for that and then you get to that point and it doesn’t work out for you, so I feel for Kyle,” said BYU coach Dave Rose on the “BYU basketball with Dave Rose” hosted by Greg Wrubell on Tuesday night. “What I do know is this is an unbelievable young man. He is prepared for life. His degree from the Marriott School of Business will be terrific for him, but I’m really disappointed that he can’t finish his senior season.”
With the season-ending injury, BYU loses both a starting forward and team captain just days before heading into its first conference game of the season. Davis, a Utah State transfer, averaged 11.9 points and 7.5 rebounds during his junior season. Now, BYU needs a replacement for the offensive threat and experienced leader.
In the wake of Davis’ injury, Rose relied on true freshman Yoeli Childs to step into the starting position.
Childs has already earned two double-doubles — one against Colorado and one against CSU Bakersfield — this season. In the game against CSU Bakersfield, Childs tallied his second double-double. He is averaging 8.4 points and 8.5 rebounds per game.
“I’m getting more minutes out there and learning from experience on the court helps a lot,” Childs said after the win over CSU Bakersfield on Dec. 22. “I think you can get a lot better in practice, but on-court minutes really help you out a lot and the game slows down a little bit for you. And I have great teammates who help me out and show me what to do.”
Childs is proving a complement to BYU standout post Eric Mika, especially when Mika is in foul trouble. Mika is one of the most experienced players as far as minutes go on the young BYU basketball team.
“He commands a lot of attention in the post and that helps the other guys,” Rose said.
Thus far in the 2016–17 season, Mika is averaging 20.5 points and 8.8 rebounds. He has six double-doubles already this season.
“To me the most telling thing is his confidence when he catches the ball in the low post,” Rose said. “Because he knows if he gets fouled, he’s going to the free-throw line and he’s going to make them. And he feels comfortable there and he wants to be there. That has been a huge part of the success he’s had offensively because he’s so aggressive in that low post area because he wants to get the foul. If they want to foul him, foul him and he’ll go to the line and make them and that’s a good guy to have.”
With Mika, BYU has been able to execute its inside-outside game.
“The two things that really impress me the most right now is when he gets double teamed, he’s a willing passer,” Rose said. “The ball comes right back out, which is a great thing to have in a post guy. He recognizes it and he gets the ball out. Then you have an advantage. … Then the second thing is the confidence he shows when he goes to the line.”
Outside of Childs and Mika, BYU junior Corbin Kaufusi joined the team at practice this week following the football season, which ending with a Poinsettia Bowl victory over Wyoming. During his sophomore season, Kaufusi averaged 16.1 minutes, 4.5 rebounds and 5.7 points. He had 42 blocks on the season.
“This will be an interesting few practices for our young guys that don’t understand how this works and how this conference you are scouted as well as any league I’ve been around as far as preparation is concerned.” — Dave Rose, BYU basketball coach
Then there is Jamal Aytes, a junior plagued by a foot injury, but Rose said on “BYU basketball with Dave Rose” that he had impressed coaches with his recovery this season. Add into the mix sophomore Braiden Shaw who Rose said has given some “quality minutes” in a few games this season and BYU basketball bench is fairly deep.
But losing Davis still hurts.
Inexperience has cost the Cougars a handful of games in the early games this season. Now heading into its first West Coast Conference game of the season, Rose says the games get even more intense and he hopes his young team is ready for the challenge.
“This will be an interesting few practices for our young guys that don’t understand how this works and how this conference you are scouted as well as any league I’ve been around as far as preparation is concerned,” Rose said. “Our guys are going to have to be able to respond. We’re going to have to have a real will not to yield and try and do other things but to stay with what we do and how we do it. … The intensity of that next game will be way different than we felt here tonight (against CSU Bakersfield) and hopefully our guys are ready for it.”
Without Davis, BYU has a mere six players who have experienced the transition to conference play. That’s not a lot of leadership. However, Davis has opted to stick around and finish what he started in the only way he can — a leadership role.
“(Davis) is determined to be with the guys and help us in a leadership role, but actual time on the court, he’s seen his last minutes,” Rose said on the show.
BYU takes on Santa Clara at 7 p.m. in the Marriott Center on Thursday, Dec. 29. The game will be broadcast on BYUtv.