BYU's Bronson Kaufusi caps impressive, busy freshman season
"He's back playing football. We wish him the best and thank him for really helping us," Rose said. "It was fun having him and he was a huge part of that run we made late in the year. We'll see. I don't think we've closed the door to him playing basketball again. His football career, we'll see how that plays out. If he has as good a year on the field as everybody anticipates, basketball might not be something that he wants to spend time doing."
Last fall, after it was announced that basketball players Chris Collinsworth and Stephen Rogers had suffered career-ending injuries, Kaufusi approached Rose about joining the basketball team. Rose and BYU football coach Bronco Mendenhall discussed it, and both agreed to allow Kaufusi to try basketball.
"You have to think about your team chemistry and how he fits," Rose said. "He played in games over guys who had been on the team longer. Those can cause real problems. The fact that Bronson has the personality that he does, and that he's a local guy that our players knew and were friends with him, it was a very difficult situation that turned out to be a good fit with this group. There are a lot of guys, Division I football players, that could really help their basketball teams, but it just can't work. It's too hard."
As well as guard Tyler Haws played months after returning home from a mission, Rose said Kaufusi's season is "probably more of a surprising story than Tyler's return, because Tyler had played and knew what to expect. When he returned from his mission, Bronson was in fall camp. Then he ended up playing most of the season. It was interesting for me to watch Bronson play after he had expressed interest in coming on the team. I watched the defense from a whole different angle. Instead of following the ball, I watched where he was going."
Rose said what Kaufusi accomplished this year is an amazing feat.
"It's so unique for guys to be able to do that. You look at the hundreds of athletes that are capable of playing both sports at the Division I level, then the guys that actually get an opportunity to do that. There aren't very many. This was a unique situation. The opportunity was created for him because of two guys having career-ending injuries. He came in as the 11th or 12th guy this year. I think it would be really difficult to bring him in for the 14th or 15th spot next year."
On the football field, the Cougars are confident that Kaufusi will build on a strong freshman season.
"I expect a huge year out of him this fall," Van Noy said. "It will show. He works really hard. He deserves it."
Kaufusi insists that playing hoops helped him in football. "Playing basketball has helped me get ahead in a lot of ways," he said. "It should be OK. It helped me with footwork and conditioning-wise. It kept me trim. It was awesome."
"He's gained weight and it's been muscle. His body fat has gone down," Poppinga said. "He's gained about 10 pounds of lean muscle. He's moving around really well. If there's a guy that can go out and play basketball at a Division I level, then can come out and play football for you, athletically, he's a gifted kid. That's a long time to be going, from August, through football season, right into basketball season. He's going to need some rest and make sure we don't give him too many reps. But at the same time, we want to make sure he's getting better and getting the reps needed to get him ready for next season."
While Kaufusi is focusing on football now, the chance to play a game at world-famous Madison Square Garden was an unforgettable, unexpected experience.
"I never thought about playing there before. It was a surprise to me," Kaufusi said. "I learned so much during basketball season. I had great coaches and great teammates. It was great to be a part of it."
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