A friend recently came up to BYU center Chris Miles and asked if the guy who's been playing ahead of him was going to turn pro.
"He wasn't like a real informed fan, like he knew what's really going on in the program or anything," said Miles.
The friend asked, "So, is Travis going pro?"
Miles answered, "You mean Trent?"
Miles still chuckles thinking about it. But it also signals a lot about Miles and his teammates. Few outsiders really understand what they're all about, what they're capable of or what they aspire to heading into a long summer and next season without Trent Plaisted.
Lee Cummard, the Mountain West's co-MVP, also may not return for his senior year. "He's working out with us every day, and he's excited about seeing where he stands with all the other draft candidates, but he hasn't told me what he plans to do," Miles said.
At 6-foot-11, 240 pounds, Miles stands to profit more than anyone with the departure of Plaisted from the program a year early. A junior next season, Miles salutes Plaisted, gives him his dues for all he contributed to two championships for the Cougars, but he recognizes the nature of college sports is to move on without stars.
That's where the swinging door opens his way.
Last August, Miles just got off his LDS mission, was home for a few days and then left with the team for a series of games in France. He was out of shape, had no timing and his legs were wobbly.
A few months later, he'd dedicated himself to being as physically prepared as possible to enter games, primarily as a defensive specialist, to get in shape, work hard and try and help the team. He also got married. His playing time behind Plaisted came in patchwork minutes, with no predictability.
Now, the team needs him.
"I'm looking forward to the chance to be more of an offensive player. Our offense depends upon certain things, including scoring from the post. I didn't get much of an opportunity to do that last year."
Without Plaisted and possibly Cummard, BYU will make changes, utilize talent differently, maybe even create some new plays.
What many don't know is how competitive BYU's entire squad is during practice, that on many occasions the scout squad has taken it to the first team.
"We joke that the scout team should wear their scout jerseys in games because something kind of comes over them," said Miles.
While Plaisted had his own skill sets that stood out, Miles brings some others. First, he's stronger, more physical and tougher. He's a better defender and, given the minutes, likely a better shot blocker.
He is also capable of doing something Plaisted could not do, even though BYU coach Dave Rose will likely never call upon him to do it: hit 3-pointers.
Miles was perfect from the trey line as a junior at Timpview High (one for one). He estimates he made 15 as a senior. He routinely has a contest with BYU guards from beyond the arc, and while they generally beat him, he's had his moments putting them on the ropes.
If he went to a gym right now and shot 15 3s, how many would he make? "I'd make 10 or 12," he said. "But, that won't be my role."
Miles said he believes there will be a huge demand for him to be an offensive weapon for the Cougars this year.
"I feel a lot better than a year ago, especially playing defense and catching the ball in the post and working on my shot. I also feel so much more comfortable with my conditioning. I feel stronger and more confident."
Miles may be the strongest player on the squad. "We haven't maxed yet, but I can probably lift 225 pounds about 10 times."
BYU can't help but feel the loss of Plaisted as they head into the 2008-09 season.
But Miles said there is one thing the remaining players fully understand.
"We know that winning championships and even just winning games takes a lot of work. The guys coming back know that these things don't come easy. We know we have to work hard every day and pay a price.
"I think there is a great core of players coming back who have a lot of experience and everyone is dedicated to improve their individual game over the summer and play well as a team," he said.
Plaisted and possibly Cummard are gone. Freshman Chris Collinsworth is on a mission to Australia. Voids exist, but Miles believes he and his mates are up to a new challenge, new faces, a new season and look.
"All the guys are ready to put the team together from the start, like right now, just like we did a year ago."
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