PROVO — Featuring an intriguing mix of newcomers and veterans, the BYU basketball team is set to open the 2012-13 season.
As the Cougars tip off the campaign by hosting Tennessee State Friday (7 p.m. MT, BYUtv), coach Dave Rose has been tinkering with his starting lineup and trying to find the right combinations on the court.
Because of the influx of talent, one of Rose's challenges this season will be managing his team's depth and chemistry while he works to mold this group into a cohesive unit.
"Hopefully our guys will understand that the success of our program is that we all play with one agenda, and that's to win," Rose said. "Execution will continue to be an issue. A lot of guys are still learning. A lot of guys are still trying to understand our expectations for them. But I do hope that we're playing hard, playing together and have a really good focus."
Evaluations of those players, and finding the right roles for them, will continue in the season-opener and beyond.
"The most important thing is for our individual players to understand our system, what we do offensively and defensively, and how we want you to play if you're playing this spot or that spot," Rose said. "If you can figure that out and fit with the other group of guys, that's going to increase your chances of playing. That's individually, which each guy kind of needs to work through.
"What we'll look for as a staff is guys who have the best understanding and execute the best and try to find the groups of players that are successful as soon as possible. I do believe that if you put our newer guys, really talented guys, out there and have them play one-on-one, it would probably be a different result. But the bottom line is, trying to learn everything that we do and play at the pace we play at and the consistency that we expect from our guys, those are all issues. When everybody develops to that point, individually, they'll be able to contribute to our team."
BYU, which posted a 26-9 record a year ago, has proven players that will be relied on heavily, including seniors Brandon Davies — who has been named to the Wooden Award Top 50 watch list — and Brock Zylstra, and sophomore Tyler Haws, who starred as a freshman before departing on a mission. Haws is back, and is already playing at a high level.
"I'm extremely excited (to start the season) and I know everyone on the team is equally as excited," Davies said. "We're just ready to get going. … It's going to take a lot of us to pull together. It's not going to be on one guy. That's just how we play here. It's a team deal. Everyone needs to do their part."
A few newcomers could have a big impact this season, including guards Raul Delgado and Cory Calvert and forward Agustin Ambrosino. For now, they're still adjusting to Division I basketball.
"We have some young guys that are still trying to get used to our pace and playing in an arena like this," Davies said. "Other than that, I'm more than confident that we'll reach the pinnacle we're trying to reach."
Tennessee State, from the Ohio Valley Conference, had a 20-13 record last season. The Tigers boast star forward Robert Covington, who averaged 17.9 points and 7.9 rebounds a year ago and is projected to be picked in next June's NBA draft.
"He's a great player," Davies said of Covington. "We're getting familiar with what he likes to do. He's going to be hard to get stopped. But we're confident in our team defense."
NOTES: Guard Anson Winder, who has been sidelined with an ankle injury, has been practicing this week. "We're bringing him back slowly," Rose said. … Freshman Cooper Ainge, the son of former Cougar star Danny Ainge, will redshirt this season. … Entering his eighth season at the helm, Rose has compiled a 185-54 record at BYU.
Cougars on the air
Tennessee State at BYU
Marriott Center, 7 p.m.
TV: BYUtv Radio: 1160
AM, 102.7 FM