PROVO — Perhaps the lowest moment amid a season filled with ups and downs for the BYU basketball program came when the Cougars lost in the quarterfinals of the West Coast Conference tournament in Las Vegas.
But that disappointment ushered in the best moment — an impressive run in the National Invitation Tournament that culminated with a trip to Madison Square Garden in New York City, where BYU fell in the NIT semifinals to eventual champion Baylor.
"The fact these guys stuck together through some difficult times and then finished on a real high note with a postseason run that we'll all remember for a lifetime is what I'll remember the most," coach Dave Rose told the Deseret News Tuesday.
It was a season that saw senior forward Brandon Davies finish his career among the best in school history in numerous categories, and a season that saw sophomore Tyler Haws lead the West Coast Conference in scoring, just months after returning home from an LDS mission.
"That's one of the things that really stand out, the fact that Tyler's transition from his mission to his first year back playing was as consistent and as successful as anybody who's ever made that transition," Rose said. "He had a tremendous sophomore season. We expected him to have some of the games that he had because he is so talented, but the consistency for a guy who hadn't played for a couple of years was really impressive."
As the Cougars, who finished 24-12, head into the offseason, Rose must find a way to fill the void left by Davies. But he's happy to have Haws back.
"The one thing that this next year's team brings that we haven't had the last couple of years is our most consistent offensive player is actually returning in Tyler," Rose said. "We've had to replace Jimmer (Fredette) and Noah (Hartsock) the past couple of years. Brandon was really good for us, but Tyler's ability to establish himself as a real consistent option offensively should give us some real good momentum going into next year."
Rose likes that his team returns other key contributors, including Matt Carlino, Anson Winder, Josh Sharp and Nate Austin. Each of those players, like Haws, will be juniors next year.
"That's a talented group of guys that we're depending on to improve and get better and have a great off-season," Rose said. "We know all of those guys can play in our system. They're talented enough to play in our system and they understand it. You take that group of guys, then you add a really good recruiting class."
That recruiting class includes a pair of highly touted big men, Eric Mika (Lone Peak High) and Luke Worthington (Homestead High in Wisconsin), who are expected to arrive on campus in June.
"Luke and Eric are guys that we need to come in here and play a significant role for us to be really successful next year," Rose said. "There's no question that they'll be competing for significant minutes next year. Those guys want an opportunity to prove themselves and get minutes. That's what they're going to get."
Returning to the program is guard Kyle Collinsworth, who played his freshman year in 2010-11 before leaving for a mission. He comes home in May.
Rose said he expects both Collinsworth and Carlino to play point guard next season, and that the two players will probably be on the court at the same time.
This week, BYU is expected to sign Salt Lake Community College guard Skyler Halford, who redshirted one season at Utah State prior to serving a mission. He will have two years of eligibility at BYU.
Meanwhile, Rose said it's possible there could be changes to the roster during the offseason. He'll soon be conducting end-of-the-season interviews with his players.
"There's going to be a lot of discussion about expectations from the players' and the coaches' sides, and sometimes there's attrition," Rose said. "I know as good as this group was at accepting their roles, there's a lot of situations that need to be discussed. We'll go through that and see how it all turns out."
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