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BYU basketball: Cougars get back to practice

Published: Friday, Oct. 14 2011 9:37 p.m. MDT

PROVO — The BYU basketball team held their first official practice of the season last night. It went a grueling two hours with the team exhausted but in good spirits going forward.

"I thought that for the first day that it was great," said coach Dave Rose. "There was a lot of energy, and I think it was a very competitive practice.

"(I'm) excited to see these guys continue to get better. We made good strides today and we look forward to tomorrow."

This year's team includes a lot of new faces. Guards Matt Carlino, Craig Cusick, Damarcus Harrison and Austin Nelson, big men Nate Austin and Ian Harward, and wing players Josh Sharp and Jaren Sweeney are getting set to complete their first full season on the team.

Rose was particularly impressed with Austin and Harward, who both recently returned from LDS missions.

"I'm really surprised with how good of shape they're in for as late as they returned from the mission," he said. "I think they've worked very hard, and they were good today. We'll see how their bodies respond, and we'll see how they progress. Justin McClure, our strength and conditioning coach, has done a great job getting these guys ready to go."

Some familiar faces such as Brandon Davies and Chris Collinsworth are both back as well after having each of their seasons cut short last season.

While the entire nation became aware of Davies' absence, not many were as aware of Collinsworth's. The loss of both of them hampered the team considerably in what they were able to accomplish in the low post.

"I couldn't be more happy to see both of those guys back," said Noah Hartsock, "It was tough down there last season being one of the only big men on the team. Having them back will help take off a lot of pressure and will help us a ton."

Collinsworth missed almost the entire season due to a knee injury that took him 10 months to rehabilitate. He's fully healthy again, but feels he'll need some time to catch up to where he needs to be physically.

"I feel like I just returned from a mission again and that's never good," he said. "It's hard and it's frustrating, but I'm glad to be where I'm at."

When Collinsworth will feel 100 percent again isn't known at the time. He's taking it day-by-day and gaining confidence with every workout.

No workout was quite as intense as yesterday's first full practice session of the season, but Collinsworth came off of the court in good spirits.

"It felt good. It was fun," he said. "It was fun to go out there and compete. It was my first practice back, and it was fun."

email: bgurney@desnews.com

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