PROVO — Craig Drury understands team chemistry, emotion and BYU sophomore Brandon Davies.
As one of Utah’s most successful high school coaches ever, Drury coached Davies in his early days.
He knows BYU is figuring out an emotional Rubik's Cube in wake of losing Davies, the team's leading rebounder, something needing a resolution before today's regular season ending game against Wyoming in the Marriott Center.
The university disallowed Davies on Tuesday from playing basketball the rest of the season for breaking the school’s honor code, reportedly for having sexual relations outside marriage.
Drury, the Provo High School coach, who works across the street from BYU, has provided nearly a fourth of No. 3 BYU's roster with Davies and Chris and Kyle Collinsworth.
"Losing Brandon the way they did was more devastating to the team than just losing a player for a game or two," said Drury.
It showed in Wednesday's loss to New Mexico. It was too soon to manage everything in 24 hours, the least of which were Xs and Os. The digestion of everything, a re-settling of the needle that only time can provide, had not happened.
"If they would have lost a player, whether Brandon or somebody else, to a sprained ankle or appendicitis, I don't think it would have been nearly as devastating," said Drury. "Brandon was one of the guys. Listening to players talk after the game, they expressed it. They love and support him and they are emotional about it. Basketball is a game of emotion and whether those guys want to admit it or not, it had to take some of the emotional heart out of them.”
When the Lobos shot out to a lead, you could see BYU's players press. The result was the worst shooting percentage by the Cougars in the Marriott Center this season.
"I couldn't be more proud of them, even in the loss, because they kept getting up after getting knocked down," said Drury. "I watched the New Mexico game to the end because I admired how they kept at it when under emotional stress as players and coaches.
"Brandon has been kind of everyone's little brother on that team. Everyone watches out for him. Everyone wants to take care of him. During warmups, who's been the one in the middle of the circle, gyrating and dancing? It's been Brandon.”
BYU's administration has ruled Davies cannot represent the school as a basketball player in uniform. But would it hurt for him to lead that gyration in street clothes today before tipoff? Or if BYU wins and clinches the MWC title, could he be given the courtesy of helping cut down the net and receive his piece of string?
After all, as athletic director Tom Holmoe told the media Thursday, "We care about Brandon. We love him. He is family."
Holmoe said Davies could not play basketball but told reporters he is a member of the team. If so, could Davies be allowed to linger, even if not perched on the bench? Or is the Scarlet Letter pinned on him too big?
"I think it's taken a lot more from them than just a player," said Drury. "If Brandon had just sprained an ankle and missed a few games, they would have been a better team. The players were missing Brandon the teammate and I think that hurt them more than anything else."
The day Brandon Davies' name exploded live on the news-ticker wire and became a punch line on national late-night TV, he sequestered himself in seclusion and teammate Kyle Collinsworth skipped school to be at his side. Two PHS Bulldogs — a pair of teammates standing side by side.
That's what teammates do.
Drury hasn't been immune from the exploding media scene this week. He's been interviewed by TV and print reporters and received calls from coaches all over the country who recruited Davies out of Provo High. His daughter even received calls from friends, asking her what her dad knew.
Drury, who graduated from Provo High as a three-sport all-state athlete, said this past week brought torn feelings. His heart went out to Davies, his former player, but as a graduate of BYU, he was proud that BYU stood up for its principles.
He also praised Rose.
"Dave has done a great job. I've got three guys on his team, one injured for the season in Chris, one that's been injured for a few weeks in Kyle who started as a freshman, and Brandon, who has started all season.
"He's taken players from all over and he has beaten great teams. Everyone knows who his star is (Jimmer Fredette) and he's worked that guy in and won with everyone attempting to dominate him. He has really fit personalities together well and has helped from a great staff. I couldn't be more happy as a coach to have my players there and how he's helped them be successful in his program."12 comments on this story
Drury especially praises Rose for BYU's success playing a zone defense and protecting Fredette and his bigs from foul trouble while doing it effectively.
"That, as a coach, is impressive to see."
Drury doesn't know if BYU should be ranked No. 3, but he says they played like it until the last game.
"I'm sitting here in little Provo, Utah and I think they should be ranked No. 1, Utah State No. 2 and Utah No. 3. We're all prejudiced for our local teams. Nationally, I don't get into it much until March Madness."
So far for the Cougars, this March has been madness.
And the month has just begun.
Dick Harmon, Deseret News sports columnist, can be found on Twitter as Harmonwrites and can be contacted at email@example.com