PROVO — The BYU Cougars landed two basketball recruits on Wednesday, one that will suit up next season and one that won't play until four years from now.
The Cougars' prized recruit, prep combo guard Damarcus Harrison, signed his letter of intent Wednesday morning at the Christ Prep School in Asheville, N.C. and faxed it to BYU's coaches.
Later on Wednesday, Mission Viejo High School center Isaac Neilson signed a letter of intent to play for BYU and also faxed it off to BYU.
Harrison, a 6-foot-5 guard who can play the 2 or 3, averaged about 12 points and four rebounds last season for the 37-2 Greenies. He is a three-star rating on Scout.com and is No. 38 in the country at the shooting guard position. He had offers from Clemson, Florida State, Marquette, Oklahoma State, South Florida and Wisconsin.
With the departure next season of starting guards Jackson Emery and Jimmer Fredette, and with freshman guard Kyle Collinsworth expected to leave on an LDS Church mission, BYU's coaches are hoping Harrison will make an immediate impact.
Harrison is athletic, strong in the open court, an outstanding shooter, and has long arms and big hands.
"We're excited that Damarcus has chosen to be a Cougar," BYU coach Dave Rose said. "It has been a very long recruiting process and our coaching staff has done a terrific job in that process. Damarcus is a gifted athletic player that has a very high sill level. He's a terrific perimeter shooter. Damarcus has been an integral part of very highly successful programs, both on the high school and AAU levels. He will have an opportunity to play a big part for us from day one."
Nielson, a 6-foot-10, 205-pound senior from at Mission Viejo, Calif., won't join BYU's program until the 2014 season because he turns 19 in December 2011 and plans to serve a two-year LDS Church mission first.
Last season, as a junior, he averaged about nine points, nine rebounds and five blocks per game — earning first-team All-South Coast League honors. Scouts say Neilson needs to put on weight, but has a wing span comparable to someone who is 7-foot-3. He had offers from Utah State, Army, UC-Irvine and UC-Santa Barbara.
"We're happy that Isaac Neilson has chosen BYU," Rose said. "He's 6-foot-10 and has a 7-foot-3 wingspan. Isaac runs the floor really well and has a high skill level. He has great shot blocking instincts with great timing and comes to us from a program with a great winning tradition, which will help him fit in really well here."
WHO WILL START? The Cougars had an intra-squad scrimmage on Tuesday so BYU coach Dave Rose could get one last look at players in competition. He's undecided on who will start at the 3 and 4 for the Cougars on Friday against Fresno State, but has a pretty good idea of which players are in consideration. Most likely, either Charles Abouo or Kyle Collinsworth will start at the 3, and either Noah Hartsock or Chris Collinsworth at the 4.
"There are probably 7 or 8 guys who could actually start so we'll determine that later in the week," Rose said.
Most likely, Emery and Fredette will start at guards, with sophomore Brandon Davies starting at center.
Returning to the scene of the crime: Friday's game against the Bulldogs will be former BYU coach Steve Cleveland's first return to the Marriott Center since taking the Fresno State job in 2006. Rose had this to say about his close friend returning to the arena in which he coached for eight years.
"The one thing that is a little unsettling to me is the fact that we're playing a guy who has won more games in here than I have," Rose said.
NO REDSHIRT YET: Rose said at practice on Tuesday that he's still undecided whether to redshirt any players this season. Freshman guard Anson Winder is the only likely candidate and a decision on his status should be made prior to Friday's game.