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BYU basketball: Cusick earning his stripes at BYU

Published: Tuesday, Nov. 29 2011 1:11 p.m. MST

PROVO — There are preferred walk-ons and there are walk-ons in every sense of the word.

BYU point guard Craig Cusick would qualify as the latter.

Cusick wasn't guaranteed a spot on the team — he had to earn that spot in proving his worth during open tryouts. It didn't take long after securing a spot on the team that he earned himself a spot in the regular rotation at point guard.

"He's a really smart, tough and hard-nosed player," said BYU coach Dave Rose. "He loves the game. He's passionate about the game. His road to the roster at BYU is quite interesting."

His road to BYU began, somewhat ironically, with a guaranteed spot on Utah's roster as a preferred walk-on. Having graduated from Orem High in 2006, then-Ute coach Ray Giacoletti welcomed him on to his team, with Cusick using his redshirt year during his one season at Utah.

He then embarked on an LDS Church mission to London, coming home to a new coaching staff at Utah and without a spot on the team. He attended Salt Lake Community College for a year before deciding to give basketball another shot.

He enrolled at BYU and found himself on the practice squad, impressing coaches enough to find a spot for himself on the regular roster this season.

For the Orem High graduate, BYU is where he's always wanted to be.

"I grew up five minutes away from BYU," Cusick said. "I had cousins that played on some of the teams here, and I had brothers and sisters that attended school here. It didn't work out for me to be at BYU out of high school, but it's where I always wanted to be, so I saw it as an opportunity, and fortunately it's worked out."

Cusick has found himself not only seeing regular minutes, but starting so far this season. It's a role that he readily embraces.

"I've been fortunate to have the opportunity to play," he said. "I do whatever I can to help the team, and right now it's with playing the point, which is something I'm used to. Whether they want me to score, assist other guys, or not turn the ball over, then that's what I'll do."

Not turning the ball over is what has likely warranted him his increased playing time more than any other factor. Turnovers from the point position were a big problem early in the season, but with Cusick taking the reins along with freshman Anson Winder, those turnovers have gone down dramatically.

The play of the offense has also seen improvement as a result.

"I think it's been great — rotating with Anson — he's such a great player," said Cusick. "I think it's great to compete with each other in practice and in some games he's playing better and in other games, I might be the one, so it's really nice having him to compete with."

The return of Matt Carlino on Dec. 17 will add to the competition and likely the rotation at the point. Some players might see the next couple of weeks as their last audition opportunity for regular minutes, but Cusick is taking a different view.

"I don't think about that sort of stuff at all," he said. "It's about helping the team, and I'm excited for Matt to join the team because he's a great player and he can really help us. When he comes back, then I'm happy with whatever role the coaches assign me. If it's to come in, take some charges, or whatever — I'm fine with it."

It's that sort of attitude that has endeared him to Rose since he first walked on to the team.

"He's taken a real advantage of an opportunity and hopefully he can get better," said Rose.

Email: bgurney@desnews.com

Twitter: @BrandonCGurney

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