Most die-hard BYU fans are aware of how future Cougars Nick Emery, Eric Mika and TJ Haws have fared so far this season. The Lone Peak trio has captured a lot of national recognition as the Knights have tackled an ambitious out-of-state schedule while running roughshod in-state.
But what about future Cougars who live out of state?
Fellow BYU commits Luke Worthington, Jakob Hartsock and Braiden Shaw are all enjoying successful senior stints after signing national letters of intent to play for the Cougars. They're also taking note of how their future teammates are faring and are excited for the future.
Worthington made sure to get a first-hand look at three of his future teammates when Lone Peak traveled to Wisconsin to take part in the Brandon Jennings Invitational. The Knights were given all they could handle against Wesley Christian Academy (N.C.), but still came away with a 63-59 win.
“It was great watching those guys play live knowing that I’ll be playing with them at BYU,” Worthington said. “All three of them are amazing players and I think we’re going to do some great things playing together.”
Worthington himself is finishing out strong, starring for Homestead High School in Mequon, Wis. Despite playing for his third coach in four years the 6-foot-9 forward is averaging around 14 points and 11 rebounds a game while showing noticeable improvement.
“I’ve really worked hard in being more patient in the post and I’ve really tried to watch Tim Duncan (San Antonio Spurs) and I’m trying to play more like him,” Worthington said. “It’s really helped me and I feel I’m a better player this year than last.”
Worthington recorded a triple-double with 19 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists in an 80-57 win over Milwaukee Lutheran last week. Homestead is 12-5 with one regular-season game remaining until the state playoffs.
Worthington has watched many of BYU’s games this season and is anxious to make an immediate impact when he joins the program next season.
“I can definitely visualize myself making an impact when I watch BYU play,” he said. “I think I could really help out with the depth inside and I love watching Bronson Kaufusi play and how physical he is because that’s a lot like I am. I want to get in there and bang around inside. That’s what I do best."
Hartsock, meanwhile, is leading a very successful 16-4 regular-season campaign for hometown Bartlesville (Okla.) High School. The 6-foot-8 senior is averaging around 21 points and 10 rebounds per game while making his own improvements.
“I’ve really worked hard on my outside shooting and I can knock down 3-pointers consistently now,” he said. “We’ve played some tough teams this year, but we have a lot of good chemistry and I feel we can do some great things in the playoffs.”
Hartsock is the younger brother of former Cougar Noah Hartsock and has emulated a lot of the same aspects that brought his older brother success.
“I can hit that same turnaround jumper than Noah did, but I actually think I’m better at it than he was,” Jakob quipped. “We’re real competitive and I’ve obviously learned a lot from him, but I love going against him and beating him now. It’s a lot of fun and we have a lot of fun with it.”
Jakob plans on serving a mission for The Church of Jesus of Christ of Latter-day Saints before enrolling at BYU and is anxious to join with his future teammates — particularly two of them.
“I really like that I’ll be playing with guys like (Eric) Mika and (Luke) Worthington because those guys will take care of the big guys inside and free some stuff up for me,” he said. “You want big, physical guys inside like that and I think it’s going to be a great situation for me and for everyone else who likes to play outside because they’re both so good inside.”
Shaw of Eagle, Idaho, is a lot like Jakob Hartsock with his physical makeup. He too is enjoying a successful senior campaign, although his team has struggled. Eagle High School is just 9-9 on the year and will limp into the district playoffs with a relatively young team.
The 6-foot-8 forward is averaging around 16 points and 10 rebounds per game while working to emulate current Cougar Tyler Haws.
“His midrange game is so good and I’ve worked hard to develop my midrange jumper and it’s paid off for me,” he said. “I’ve also worked on being more effective with my back to the basket and I like where my game is at right now.”
Shaw, like Jakob Hartsock, will opt to serve an LDS mission before enrolling at BYU, but is anxious for the future of the program.
“I’ve obviously followed Lone Peak and what they’ve done and I’ve kept in touch with Jakob (Hartsock) and other recruits and I think we could have a great team when we all play together,” he said. “Guys like Nick Emery, Eric Mika and TJ Haws — those guys are amazing and it’s going to be a blessing for me to be able to play with such great players. It’s going to be exciting and I can’t wait.”