It’s supposed to be a rebuilding year.
At least that is what people are whispering as they take a look at the 2015–16 BYU basketball roster. And on paper it might look that way.
Of the 15 players eligible to play this season, only four of the players are upperclassmen and only six of those players have ever seen court time. It sounds like a building year on those facts alone, but the players don’t believe it. In fact, sophomore forward Corbin Kaufusi entices, “Wait and see.”
“It’s never a building year,” Kaufusi said. “Every year is the year and that’s the way you’ve got to look at it.”
Kaufusi is one of four returning starters, led by senior triple-double machine Kyle Collinsworth. Fellow seniors Chase Fischer and Nate Austin — who is returning for a medical redshirt year — will round out the core of the team.
“Those guys you build the team off of,” Collinsworth said. “I think that is the upside. The core guys and the older guys are the guys who scored last year, the guys who did most of the stuff, so we’ll be able to build around that with a younger group.”
[pullquote]”It’s never a building year. Every year is the year and that’s the way you’ve got to look at it.” —Corbin Kaufusi, forward[/pullquote]
Besides that core of returning starters, the Cougars will look to sophomores Cory Calvert and Jake Toolson. Calvert played his freshman season in 2012–13 before serving a LDS mission in Boston. During his freshman season, Calvert averaged 1.9 points and .7 rebounds. Toolson returns after his freshman season when he averaged 2.3 points and 1.4 rebounds.
And the absence of prolific scorer Tyler Haws, as well as double-figure scorers Anson Winder and Skyler Halford, doesn’t have the coaches or players worried.
“I think we’ll be more balanced,” Fischer said. “Obviously Ty is unbelievable — he is one of the best players of BYU history— but a lot of games when Ty was hot, teams would know the ball was going to him. We are a lot more balanced this year. We have an inside presence with Kyle Davis, Nate and Corbin, who have really stepped up and it’s allowed younger guys to come in who can really shoot the ball. It’s made us less predictable.”
The adjustment in who will make up Haws’ 22.2 points per game reminds Rose of the changes necessary following Jimmer Fredette’s graduation.
“I expect them all to step up,” Rose said. “That’s the beauty (of practices starting) is you get a chance to get on that path.”
And even some of the new faces are ready to step up. Highly touted freshman and Lone Peak alum Nick Emery is aware of the void left by last year’s high-scoring seniors.
“My first thought was I need to come in and score, but after playing in the summer and playing now (I know) any of us can score the ball,” Nick said. “We’re all scorers. We were all scorers in high school. I think it’s just a thing we need to put together now.”
[pullquote]“I’m really excited about the depth of this team and hopefully that’s how it plays out. I love competition and I think that’s the key to success. And if our team can compete against each other, then we’ll find a solid group that can compete for championships.” —BYU coach Dave Rose[/pullquote]
Playing in Spain this summer gave BYU’s basketball team a jump start to the season, allowing coaches to see players on the court as well as teammates to become more familiar with each other.
“This team really is well balanced,” said forward Kyle Davis, who redshirted last year due to NCAA transfer rules. “You’ve got a star player at point guard. You’ve got an amazing player in our shooting guard with Chase. You’ve got beasts at the post with Nate and Corbin. You’ve got a great blend of players that we should all be able to come together to do something special and win some games.”
Take all of the fresh mix of raw talent and Rose expects more depth from the team this year where players are competing for playing time.
“I’m really excited about the depth of this team and hopefully that’s how it plays out,” Rose said. “I love competition and I think that’s the key to success. And if our team can compete against each other, then we’ll find a solid group that can compete for championships.”
As for the 2015–16 season being a building year — the players aren’t buying it.
“I think people seeing this year as a rebuilding year is just crazy, because it’s nothing about rebuilding,” Austin said. “It’s about taking that next step and becoming an elite program.”
The Cougars begin practice on Monday, Oct. 5. Fans can get their first look at the team at the Cougar Tipoff on Wednesday, Oct. 28 at 7 p.m. in the Marriott Center.
Watch Rose’s full Media Day press conference below.