While the BYU football team heads into its bye week, the Cougar basketball squad will play under the lights twice this week — once at the intrasquad Cougar Tipoff on Wednesday, and again in the team's exhibition opener vs. Laval on Friday.
Head coach Dave Rose returns three starters in Jimmer Fredette, Jackson Emery and Noah Hartsock, but this week and the Nov. 5 exhibition finale will highlight the many personnel combinations represented by the other holdovers and newcomers. According to associate head coach Dave Rice, the exhibition slate will give coaches and fans a chance to see "who's going to play, how much they're going to play, and who's going to play together."
"It's how you play with the other guys on the court, because this is a really team-oriented program," says Rice, Rose's right-hand man. "We get really good players, but then we get five guys on the court who play really, really well together."
Versatility will be a strong suit for the Cougars this season. Freshman Kyle Collinsworth is a small forward who can also play point guard. Juco transfer Stephen Rogers is seeing time at every position but point guard and center. Hartsock and returned missionary Chris Collinsworth could be equally valuable as power forwards or centers, complemented by sophomore big man Brandon Davies. Then there's junior small forward and Cote d'Ivoire national Charles Abouo, a player Rice says has "an opportunity to contribute in a big way for us."
For Cougar fans, guessing at an opening-night starting five will be an intriguing endeavor over the next couple of weeks. Rice says while "nothing's really been decided at this point," there are clearly a lot of options. "And we're excited about the options that we have."
For me, it's the busiest time of the year: when the BYU football and basketball seasons cross over. The next number of weeks will present a packed play-by-play schedule, and the occasional, inevitable conflict, with the two sports competing for airspace in the same week, and sometimes on the same date.
Historical precedent dictates that I remain with the football broadcast crew in cases where gridiron and hardwood broadcasts collide, but I will always try to find a way to do both teams' games, as long as logistics allow.
In recent seasons and again this year, I have encountered manageable doubleheaders, in which an afternoon football game at LaVell Edwards Stadium is followed by an evening basketball game at the Marriott Center. Or, as happened last year, when BYU's afternoon basketball game in Las Vegas was followed by the football team's appearance across town in the Las Vegas Bowl. Those "back-to-backers" are easy; long days, but certainly feasible.
A little more difficult are the situations in which a Friday night home basketball game is followed by a Saturday afternoon away football game. Those scenarios require either a late-night drive on the interstate or an early Saturday morning flight, or as will be the case in a few weeks, a Saturday morning flight AND a drive on the interstate (for the Fresno State basketball/Colorado State football twin bill). When flying or driving in November, a broadcaster always has his fingers crossed — even more so when the margin for error is only an hour or two.
My most difficult cross-sport experience took place in 2007, when BYU played a two-game basketball tournament in Las Vegas on the same weekend the football team hosted Utah to end the regular season. I was determined to broadcast all three games in a 24-hour span, and a plan was hatched that would involve private aircraft, airports I didn't know existed, my car, a rental car, and very few hours to spare.
Thanks to some friends in high places (or at least one friend who knew some people who flew and/or owned airplanes), I was shuttled to and from Vegas in time to broadcast an upset hoops win over No. 5 Louisville, the "4th-and-18" football game, and then the BYU hoopsters' meeting with No. 1 North Carolina — all between Friday night and Saturday night. That weekend remains one of the most exhausting yet exhilarating experiences of my broadcast career.
Greg Wrubell is the radio play-by-play "Voice of the Cougars," and hosts "BYU Football with Head Coach Bronco Mendenhall" on KSL Newsradio and KSL 5 Television. Wrubell's blog "Cougar Tracks" can be found at byu.ksl.com. "Behind the Mic" is published every Tuesday during the BYU football and basketball seasons. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org