The State of the Program is a series of short reports generated by fans and media close to the BYU men’s basketball program. These reports provide educated opinions about the current state of the basketball team and speculation about the future of the program. If you are interested in contributing to this series please contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Summer doldrums report….Not much new……State of the 2016-2017 Roster and the race against time to recondition
by James Vincent
BYU’s basketball cup runneth over with leadership among the guards. L.J. Rose and Elijah Bryant are more than ready right now. They join the already known local greats Nick Emery and TJ Haws in that class of top notch high level D-1 leaders. Having gotten to know Yoeli Childs some, he absolutely has the goods to lead but that is likely a couple of years away. What’s beautiful about the four guards/wings: on the one hand they are all point guard types, while on the other hand they each contribute in different ways.
Some might be concerned about chemistry. That might be a problem with other forthcoming ultra talents joining together, but not this group, imo. This roster is full of mentally tough extra smart guys who are inherently wired to win. If not for the time lag grind to conditioning caused by the returned missionaries 2 year lay-offs, a big year (30 wins) would be more than plausible. The central question is the timely recovery, to both physical fitness and mental sharpness, of the RMs who are reconditioning, especially for the two bigs. BYU has all the maturity in the world despite what some say is limiting youth and inexperience. Just don’t see that problem as the gifted mature younger. When you hear that from the coaches, assume its posturing. You’ll hear opposing coaches say quite the opposite about BYU. It’s usually just posturing from both sides. But if the 3 RMs are less than 100% when the team plays those major out of conference opponents in November and December, then BYU possibly drops a couple of big games which would make it problematic for a high seed, even if they win the WCC and enter the NCAAs with 25-27 wins, which is where i am until we see more from the RMs.
Just a heads up for those who care about preseason rankings: The Cougars may not make Pomeroy’s preseason top 100. His system factors in only 5-star frosh and gives no weight to transfers. So whatever Kyle Davis and Emery can do to add value to the calculation is about it. Don’t know what the kenpom.com system does with RM sophomore Eric Mika, or junior Corbin Kaufusi, now that he is a walk-on who will miss the first 12-14 games. BYU will get no preseason weighting at all for adding Steven Beo, Bryant, Yoeli Childs, Payton Dastrup, Zac Frampton, Haws, or Rose.
The Cougars currently have 6 well conditioned athletes on campus, enrolled, healthy, and ready to go, not counting transfer Rose who will join the team in September, nor Kaufusi who is playing football.
Elijah Bryant: 6’5″ (210)–If you were to ask people who have watched the pick up games frequently, what is your opinion of Elijah? Some would respond saying, he is the best player on the floor. My answer would be that he is in the same class as the best players at BYU and one of the preeminent floor leaders. Elijah is a top facilitator, takes it to the rim well, is an excellent defender, a good rebounder, and a respectable outside shooter. His quickness and hops are decent.
Yoeli Childs: 6’7″ (230)–Among the incoming freshmen, none are counted on to make a contribution out of the gate more than Childs. A classic sized D-1 PF, he will be needed immediately with Corbin Kaufusi moving to football and the other 4 star bigs (Mika and Dastrup) reconditioning after their 2-year lay offs. That’s asking a lot of the 18 year old from South Jordan who led his high school team to the State Championship in his senior year. Assuming Mika is ready for the opening tip off, Yoeli won’t start ahead of Davis in November but he may serve as the first big off the bench until freshman RM Payton Dastrup recovers fully and battles for serious minutes at the post. Yo has brains to burn, is a student of basketball history, is passionate about raising his game, and is very much a team leader of the future. Childs also aspires to earn some minutes at SF which is the position in most need of help on the depth chart. He probably has the goods to play the 3 on offense but has to prove he has a suitable game on the defensive end in the face of the continued emphasis on upgrading the team’s ability to get stops. While we expect his minutes to settle in at the post after a noble try at SF, Yo might not agree with that: “In high school i was only a 5. So i have a lot of work to do to move to a 4 and trying to play some 3 also…..i learn a lot guarding guys like Elijah, Kyle and Corbin.”
Kyle Davis: 6’8″ (225)–Let’s get it out of the way that he needs to finish at the rim better. His free throw deficiency is there but way overblown as a problem. Expect he’ll hit 70% this season, which is just a smidgeon up from his longer term trend. That aside, KD is in top condition and runs the court with as much endurance as anyone right now. He can be counted on to continue racking up double doubles and continue to lead the team in blocked shots. Given the loss of Kaufusi until WCC play and the conditioning work ahead for both Mika and Dastrurp, Davis is an almost certain starter through most of the OOC games at least.
Steven Beo: 6’3″ (thin)–who signed a NOI in April after being converted from walk-on to scholarship status, is as much a mystery as any of the incoming players. An undersized wing Beo is a fierce competitor who is ever ready to fire away. He has had some special moments in pick up play, draining several 3s with the defender in his jersey and occasionally finishing beautifully at the rim in traffic. He is impressive for a smaller slower guard but many of his plays look spectacular and more difficult than easy. I believe in the axiom that talent is making difficult things look easy. So we’ll continue to watch with interest.
Davin Guinn: 6’5″ (190)–One of the most effective ways for a talented young adult to land their dream job is to volunteer to intern for free, then demonstrate their wares, network, make themselves valuable, and let nature take its course. Davin walked on last year as a new RM at BYU. Despite an unimpressive pre mission freshman year at UC Riverside, Guinn worked hard at BYU, displayed surprising talent, and was awarded his full ride last month. If there is an impending upside surprise in the works for this season, Davin Guinn may have as good a shot as any to fill that slot. He hits the 3, rebounds, and finishes well. He’s big, strong, aggressive and stands as the favorite to fill that 8-10 minute spot at the wing as the #5 guard. If one of the four elite guards go down with an injury, Guinn could earn more serious minutes if he is proves his worthiness. Guinn looks competitive. He’s unfailingly aggressive and doesn’t back down. What he lacks in quickness he makes up for somewhat with a relentless motor and good strength. While he saw little action four years ago at UCR, he showed glimpses of effectiveness in his 26 minutes of garbage time last year with a 28% usage and a decent efficiency rating. In HS he hit 43% of his 3s (20 of 46), was 59% overall in FGs, hit 87% of his free throws, while averaging 23.3 PPG and 9.3 rebounds and earned all CIF honors.
Braiden Shaw: 6’9″ (210)–While there is/are a plethora of good post players on the roster, only Davis, Childs, and Shaw likely will be in top condition for the expected ESPN Marathon November invite at the Marriott Center. Eric Mika is so good and has been home long enough, that he is expected to lead at the post from opening day, though perhaps at less than 100% condition. In any case, Braiden will get ample chances to step up and help the team with serious minutes in November. He says that last year he wasn’t fully recovered from his mission legs until February, so we can expect significant improvement from his freshman minutes. Shaw does look quicker this summer. Cheering for Braiden to make an impact at the post this season.
Conditioned but not currently with the team
LJ Rose: 6’3″ (200)–is probably in top condition and expected to move to Provo in September. Not sure BYU has ever had a more thoroughly oriented pass first point guard than this senior grad transfer from the Houston Cougars. LJ also represents one of the most heralded and heavily recruited high school players ever to attend BYU. Expect LJ to contribute at the level of Bryant, Emery and Haws.
Corbin Kaufusi: 6’10” (260)–is more in football condition but in pick-up basketball games has never looked better. He even looks like his hands have become more reliable. Maybe it’s simply a matter of improving instincts for the game and/or possibly the bigger body mass may be better in Corbin’s case.
Not yet in condition for prime time
Jamal Aytes 6’6″ (235)–Jamal is still fighting to come back from another surgery a few weeks ago. If he does so he will be defying the odds among those who have gone down from microfracture damage. Aytes’ high character and locker room contribution may have made it easier for coaches to hang with him another year. Once he played at a legit D-1 level, now we’re just pulling for him to recover his health.
Payton Dastrup: 6’10” (260)–is in an important race with the calendar to redistribute that body mass to muscle. A consistently positive soul who comfortably morphs himself to get in tune with his environment, Payton is safely away from the corn and rice in Panama and is now impressing trainers with his conditioning effort and progress in his determined quest to be ready for tip off on day 1. Now get this: Payton does a shooting drill with Quincy 5 days per week (Monday-Friday). He shoots 30 jumpers from the wing/elbow, 30 3’s around the perimeter and 100 free throws. Last week he averaged 21/30 jumpers, 24/30 3’s and 81/100 free throws. Moreover, Payton’s foot speed during the ladder Icky Shuffle drill surprised the new strength coach, in a good way. Coach Schork commented that he didn’t expect a big guy to outperform the guards in the drill, but Payton did so! Maybe Dastrup will get to try some SF? Payton is targeting September 12 to be ready for full practice participation.
Nick Emery: 6’2″ (180)– As Wrubell intimated on 960 recently, Nick had his annual summer setback via a hyperextended knee several weeks ago so he had it scoped. Short procedure but complicated upon waking from surgery by some irregular breathing and surprising pain which called for his annual hospital overnight stay for observation. 3 summers in a row that Emery has checked in for his inpatient respite. He’s coming along fine now and should be the first in this group to advance to top condition in a matter of weeks. You all know he’s a great player.
Zac Frampton: 6’3″–Still on his mission. Returns next month as the team’s only walk-on. After LP3, there is bandied about some discussion about who was #4 on that national championship team. Was it Shumway, Conner Toolson, or Frampton? A lot of people who would know are very happy BYU landed Zac. Expect Frampton to challenge Guinn and Beo for minutes by January unless a redshirt option is in play. His statement game in HS was a 21 point first half in the Utah State Championship game in his senior year while teaming up with TJ Haws and Frank Jackson at Lone Peak HIgh.
TJ Haws: 6’4″ (160)–Most everything that i know about this kid is the amazing stuff i read in the papers and see in highlights. Like others on this roster, he is a potential all-time BYU great. It took discipline for TJ and Mika to conspire to lose all of that weight during the last few months of their missions. Expect they will exercise that same work ethic to gain it back in muscle in time for the season. Tj just began easing into 5 on 5 pick-up games a couple of weeks ago.
Eric Mika 6’10” (220)–Just get conditioned, big guy. Team needs you to start at center in game #1. Just cleared to begin 5 on 5 pick-up games this past week.
It’s not often that a sports team boasts a “Big 3” without some kind of hierarchy. LP3 might be such an elite trio where their relative value to the team is as close to co equal as it gets. Only in BYU’s case there are other teammates in that same talent class. Can such a team have a storied season with rotating stars? For the first time in many years, BYU’s basketball team may have more to figure out about the kind of offense it will run than the kind of defense.
As Greg Wrubell has reported many times, coach Quincy Lewis instituted the new Pack Line defense last year that resulted in a Points Per Possession (PPP) improvement to the 77th best in Division 1 from 160th in the prior year. Unfortunately, the offensive PPP efficiency declined to 52nd from 12th. PPP is the ultimate all encompassing number in advanced team stats and you can pretty much track the direct correlation of BYU basketball performance (or any other team) over the last 15 years with its ups and downs in offensive and defensive PPP. Top teams are very strong on both sides of the ball. Most Dave Rose teams have been much stronger on offense, though in 2008 and 2012 the opposite was true. While there are considerable limitations in how much individual advanced stats can tell us about a particular player’s effectiveness, team stats tell the whole story, and aside from the final score, the basic elements of PPP go a long way towards explaining how a team does or doesn’t get it done. Check out kenpom.com if you want to get into this more.
One question for 2016-2017 is not only which side of the ball will prove better, but on offense there is considerable uncertainty as to the source of the points while the defense is sure to continue its implementation of the “sagging man-to-man” system known increasingly as the Pack Line Defense. Quincy has said on many occasions that losing KC on defense is huge but he is optimistic about the replacement talent to rebuild stoppers. So from where will the points come? From the guards or the bigs, from the paint or perimeter? One thing that is not uncertain about BYU’s offensive style: pace will continue to be very uptempo.
What’s next for State of the Program? Conditioning updates on Dastrup, Haws, Mika, Aytes, and a first look at Frampton.
This opinion piece was written by James Vincent (Roseyscenario) and is cross-posted in CougarBoard.