PROVO — The Cougars already have their point guard, as all signs point to UCLA transfer Matt Carlino taking the reins based on his impressive practice performances.
Due to NCAA transfer restrictions, however, Carlino won’t be able to join the team until its game against Baylor on Dec. 17. From now until then, coach Dave Rose and his staff will be looking for a starting point guard.
The Cougars won’t be taking on exactly a cupcake schedule in the early going. The candidates at the position will have to take on both in-state rivals Utah State and Utah on the road along with Weber State at home and Oregon at EnergySolutions Arena.
So who will be manning the position and who will be that player’s primary backup?
Going by the minutes logged against Midwestern State and in practices, the 6-foot-6 former swingman Brock Zylstra looks to be the best bet.
“It’s still a battle, but Brock has played the most minutes,” said Rose.
The other two players vying for the starting spot — or at least some playing time at the point — are 6-foot junior Nick Martineau and 6-foot-2 junior Craig Cusick, who transferred from Utah.
While both Martineau and Cusick are natural point guards, Zylstra, a redshirt junior, has played and practiced exclusively at wing positions prior to this season. Not many fans imagined him to be the likely stop-gap option at the point until he played well there during the team’s trip to Greece.
Since that trip, he’s maintained the starting spot and is coming off of a solid performance against Midwestern State where he scored six points and dished out five assists in 21 minutes of play. What wasn’t as solid, however, were his three turnovers.
“It was different and it was fun,” said Zylstra. “I think I had three turnovers, which is not what I wanted, but it was a fun thing to experience.”
It was a good and necessary thing for him and for the team to experience as well. Making the switch from a wing to the point isn’t something you do effectively overnight.
Fortunately, Zylstra has the right mindset to do it effectively. While he fully admits that playing the point isn’t his preference, he’s more than willing to do whatever helps the team most.
“The one thing that Brock has demonstrated, over the course of the three years that he’s been with us, is that he’s a team guy,” said Rose. “He’s done anything that we’ve asked him to do his first three years and now we’re asking him to play a new position that he’s excited about. That’s just who he is.”
While it’s incumbent on the point guard to manage the offense and in effect run the team, Zylstra isn’t going at it alone. Given BYU’s offensive system, he’s receiving a lot of help.
“I think it’s a team effort,” said Zylstra. “With me bringing the ball up, I get a lot of help from the wings and from how plays are being drawn up.”
While he’s likely to see the most minutes at point while Carlino is out, some think he is likely to assume his role as a wing-man when Carlino returns. The prospect hasn’t been discussed much, if at all, regarding what his eventual role will be, but Zylstra is OK with whatever coaches feel is best.
“I just want to do what is best for the team,” he said. “That’s my main focus.”
It’s that attitude that Rose hopes to impart on his young team this season.
“It’s a great opportunity for him and hopefully he’ll take advantage of that opportunity,” Rose said. “I also think it’s a great lesson to our younger guys about being a team guy.”