The most important thing right now for us is to finalize our roster for next season. This will be an interesting process because with Eric (Mika) and the draft right now, you kind of have to hold a space for him until he makes a decision on exactly what he’s going to do. —BYU coach Dave Rose
PROVO — There seems to significant roster turnover in college basketball these days and BYU is no exception.
At the start of last season, the Cougars appeared to have arrived at a point where they could enjoy some continuity for years to come. But that isn't the case.
Coach Dave Rose said Tuesday three players — forward Jamal Aytes and guards Steven Beo and Davin Guinn — are leaving the program while forward Corbin Kaufusi, who played both football and basketball last season, is going to focus on football next year.
Meanwhile, forward Eric Mika has declared for the NBA draft, though he hasn’t hired an agent.
If Mika decides not to return to BYU, the Cougars would have only six scholarship players returning for next season — Elijah Bryant, Yoeli Childs, Payton Dastrup, Nick Emery, TJ Haws and Braiden Shaw.
Rose expects to welcome back four players from missions — Ryan Andrus, Dalton Nixon and Luke Worthington, along with Zac Seljaas, who is rejoining the program after coming home from his mission with a shoulder injury. Last week, the Cougars also signed guard Rylan Bergersen.
“The most important thing right now for us is to finalize our roster for next season,” Rose told reporters. “This will be an interesting process because with Eric and the draft right now, you kind of have to hold a space for him until he makes a decision on exactly what he’s going to do.”
And if that weren’t enough, the Cougars are looking for a new assistant coach, too, after Terry Nashif left the program to pursue a job in the private sector. Nashif found a job within days after leaving BYU, Rose said.
What is Rose looking for in new assistant?
“I like team guys. I want a guy who has been in the trenches and been challenged and always seems to rise with a positive attitude and positive results,” Rose said. “I’m looking for an all-around guy that can fit into the places that we feel we need to. Our staff will take a real look at how we’ll assign things out for the next year. Hopefully, I’ve got a real balanced guy that we’d feel comfortable with doing any responsibility a guy who has extensive recruiting ties could be really valuable to us.”
There have been a lot of applicants for the job, according to Rose. He would like to hire a new assistant “tomorrow,” he said, adding that the process most likely won’t conclude until sometime in May.
The Cougars posted a 22-12 record last season, finished third in the West Coast Conference and ended their season in the first round of the National Invitation Tournament.
Aytes is graduating from BYU this week and will likely seek to play one more season elsewhere as a graduate transfer. Guinn is graduating in August and is planning to enroll in law school after that. And Beo, a freshman, has decided to transfer.
Kaufusi, a defensive lineman, joined the basketball team after the football season ended in late December.
“Corbin is concentrating on football. He intends to have a great year of football. After the season is over, he wants to concentrate on preparing for professional football if he can,” Rose said. “The transition was a lot harder than he thought it was going to be. He’s going to leave here with a real special place in the hearts of coaches, teammates and fans. There’s not too many guys who are 3-0 in The Kennel (at Gonzaga).”
Rose said he wasn’t surprised by Mika’s decision to declare for the draft, adding that a couple of NBA teams “expressed interest to us as a staff that (they) wanted to bring him in and work him out. The only way to pursue that is to put your name in the draft. We were expecting that. Eric’s done a great job with it. He’s worked really hard and spent a lot of time (at BYU) on his own. He’s flown back and forth on the weekends to get competition against professional guys. He’s taking his last final (exam), too. A lot of guys will leave their academics and take off. He’s finished his semester pretty well.”
As far as returning players go, Andrus returned home from his mission a few days ago, Rose said, while Nixon returns in May and Worthington returns shortly after that.
Rose likes the addition of Bergerson.
“I love his length. He’s long, and he plays multiple positions,” he said. “He’s really good with the ball, and he’s a good passer and he can make really big shots. He’s got a great midrange game. His versatility will add to the depth of our guard line. Our guard line could be as good as it’s ever been with the group of guys that we have. We have good experience and some good young guys.”
Guard Elijah Bryant missed several games during the regular season and was sidelined for the NIT due to a recurring knee injury. The knee is progressing “slower than expected,” Rose said.
One focus of the offseason will be on the defensive side, where BYU struggled with last season.
“Defensively, there’s some real changes that we need to make to be way more competitive on that end of the floor,” Rose said.
For now, Rose is working on hiring a new assistant. He’s hopeful that “with a new coach added to our staff and some real reach with that individual’s connection and personality that we’ll be able to keep this thing going and compete for championships.”