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Y.'s Kaufusi a fan favorite

Published: Wednesday, Jan. 9 2013 8:00 a.m. MST

PROVO — Freshman forward Bronson Kaufusi made his BYU basketball debut last week in wins against Loyola Marymount and San Francisco.

Kaufusi scored four points (2-of-2 shooting from the field), recorded one steal and had one rebound in six minutes of play in the two games.

Still, even though it's been a couple of weeks since he joined the team — after the football season ended — the Cougar defensive lineman is still not allowed to talk to the media.

BYU's coaching staff wants the talented, two-sport athlete to focus on basketball. And there's still plenty for the 6-foot-7, 260-pound Kaufusi to absorb.

"He's learning. He's got a lot on his plate that he's trying to figure out," said basketball coach Dave Rose. "We're trying to keep it pretty simple for him … shrink the playbook, if you will, just so he can understand a few things and really help us. To this point, he's done a great job. What we would really like to see is him pick up more things, then we can actually evaluate him in our whole system instead of just small pieces."

Kaufusi's teammates are enjoying having him on the team.

"It's fun, man. There are a few more bruises on all the guys on the team," said guard Craig Cusick. "His brings a smile and a great effort to practice and to the games. He goes in for a minute or two and gets a couple of rebounds and a couple of points. It's great having him here. He's doing a great job for us."

Toward the end of BYU's win over LMU, the student section began chanting Kaufusi's name as he sat on the bench. Kaufusi ended up entering the game to raucous cheers.

"He got into the game and you would have thought he was a superstar on the team," Cusick said with a smile.

"He was anxious and happy just to have his jersey on," said forward Brandon Davies. "He's grateful for the opportunity he had to go in there and he made the most of it. … It takes a great athlete to be able to do both sports."

Aside from being a crowd favorite, Kaufusi is helping the Cougars' size and depth.

"He's a big body. He's scored in both games he's played in," said guard Brock Zylstra. "I like him because he served in the same (LDS) mission I did in New Zealand. He's fun to have around. He works hard. He knows his role. He comes in and gets rebounds and sets some screens with his big body of his."

"He's a big, physical presence with really good feet and moves really well," Rose said. "He has a really good knack for the ball as far as rebounding and he takes up a lot of space. Offensively, we're trying to really figure out if he's a back-to-the-basket guy, if he's a guy on the high post, if he's a turn-and-face guy. He just needs to get more reps and we'll see how it works."

IN THE ZONE: At San Francisco, Rose rolled out a 1-3-1 zone, something he said he hadn't used since he coached at Dixie State in the 1990s.

To defend the Dons' dribble penetration to the basket, Rose had his players play the 1-3-1 at times, with success.

"We spent some time last week putting it in," Rose said. "It's a really good defense to help control, contain penetration. That's the key for us to use it."

"The coaches are great about when to throw (the 1-3-1) in and trying to catch teams off guard," Davies said. "It's worked to our advantage. We're getting better at it every day in practice."

NOTES: Guard Anson Winder celebrated his 21st birthday Monday. … Davies said his ankle, which he sprained Dec. 29 against Virginia Tech, still has some swelling, but that it's "getting better," adding that there's "less and less pain." … With Kaufusi's emergence, Agustin Ambrosino has moved from the 4 spot to the 3, behind Tyler Haws. "That's our plan right now," Rose said. "Augie's a lot more comfortable at the 3 this week than he was last week, which is good for our team."

Email: jeffc@desnews.com

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