PROVO — The road to a spot on a Division I basketball team is not always lined with deep stacks of scholarship offers.
Three BYU Cougars — sophomore swingmen Brock Zylstra and Stephen Rogers, and senior forward Logan Magnusson — can vouch for that. But none regret the paths they took to land a spot on BYU's roster.
"It was one of the best decisions I've ever made," Rogers said of his one season at Mesa Community College, where he was a junior college All-American before transferring to BYU.
Magnusson, a product of Wasatch High, first played a year at Dixie State and then a year at Salt Lake Community College, where he helped the Bruins bring home a national junior college championship in 2008.
"There are a lot of coaches who are interested in a lot of kids out there, but want to see how they do at the collegiate level first," Magnusson said. "The JC level is a nice middle ground where they can see if a kid is able to play at the D-I level.
"If I would have gone to a bigger D-I, I saw myself sitting on the bench and not improving much, so I didn't really want to go try to walk on anywhere so I took the JC route and it worked out well for me. I figured if I could get my education paid for and get the chance to play and improve and prove myself, and eventually get up to the next level, that that was the best road for me," Magnusson said.
Zylstra, a prep star in Southern California, had a different philosophy. Even though he had junior college and Division II offers, he knew exactly where he wanted to play basketball after high school.
"I always wanted to come to BYU. My brother went here, my sister went here, and this is where I wanted to play," he said.
The BYU coaching staff was up front with Zylstra early on, saying there were no scholarships available, but if he walked on and proved worthy of one later, that one might become available.
"They said we'll see how you do your freshman year and see how you do as a walk-on, and that was kind of a downer for me because I wanted to be a scholarship player," Zylstra said.
Zylstra redshirted his first season at BYU and then went on an LDS mission. Upon his return to BYU, and after a summer of hard offseason work with his teammates, coach Dave Rose called him in and offered him the scholarship that he had long worked for and dreamed of.
"But scholarships are only year-to-year for everybody, so I know I need to keep proving that I deserve it and keep busting my tail every day," Zylstra said.
Even though it was a little more difficult, and at times uncertain, Rogers, Magnusson and Zylstra are proud of how they ended up as members of BYU's basketball team.
"When the coaches tell you that you can earn a spot, they're telling you the truth," Zylstra said. "But it is a hard road. But if you have other offers to play somewhere else and that's what you want to do, then there's nothing wrong with that, either."