PROVO — The 2010-11 BYU basketball team convened for the final time Wednesday night for its annual awards banquet, and to celebrate one of the most successful, and memorable, seasons in school history.
It was also a chance for the Cougars to say goodbye to seniors like Jimmer Fredette and Jackson Emery, as well as associate head coach Dave Rice, who became UNLV's head coach earlier this week.
There was also an unexpected farewell to center James Anderson.
Coach Dave Rose said Wednesday that Anderson, who was a junior in eligibility but is set to graduate this spring, will not return next season to the Cougars. He was honored along with Fredette, Emery, and the team's other senior, Logan Magnusson.
Wednesday's event, which included school administrators and the basketball program's support staff in attendance, featured a highlight video that recapped BYU's unforgettable campaign.
The Cougars won a school-record 32 games, earned their fourth regular-season Mountain West Conference championship in five years, spent a school-record nine weeks ranked in the top 10, and advanced to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1981.
Rose, who signed a five-year contract extension last week, called it a "terrific, marvelous season" and thanked the players for all of their efforts and accomplishments.
Rose added that he's looking forward to next season. "I'm so excited for the future of our program," he said.
While talking about Rice, with whom he has served the past six years, Rose became emotional. He said while it's difficult to see Rice go, "I couldn't be happier for Dave and (Rice's wife) Mindy. It's a good feeling to know good things happen to good people."
Rice thanked everyone at BYU for their support and friendship, and said the reason he was able to be hired at his alma mater was because of the time he spent at BYU. "I'm really popular in Vegas, but we haven't played yet," Rice quipped.
Each of the seniors had an opportunity to address the audience.
"I know it's a little unexpected," Anderson said of his decision to cut his career short, explaining that it was time to move on with his life. "I'm grateful for my time here."
Emery joked that he and Fredette have a Marsha-Jan (of TV's Brady Bunch fame) relationship. "It's always, 'Jimmer, Jimmer, Jimmer,'" he said, referring to all of the attention heaped upon the consensus national player of the year.
Fredette said he thoroughly enjoyed his four years at BYU. "It's been an unbelievable experience," he said.
Last summer, while Fredette was testing the NBA draft waters and deciding whether to declare for the draft or return for his senior season, he received important advice from former Cougar star Danny Ainge.
"He told me that the best year of his life was his senior year," Fredette recalled. "I took that to heart. It was a tough decision (to return) but I know I made the best decision. It was the best year of my life."
BYU team awards
Academic Excellence: Nick Martineau
Best Conditioned Perimeter Player: Jackson Emery
Best Conditioned Post Player: Brandon Davies
Inspirational Player: Noah Hartsock
Most Improved Player: Logan Magnusson
Sixth Man: Charles Abouo
Competitive Spirit: Kyle Collinsworth
Coaches Award: James Anderson
Mr. BYU Basketball: Jackson Emery
Outstanding Player: Jimmer Fredette