PROVO — Mark Durrant has the answer to stop BYU basketball players from taking off early for professional basketball, the money pot, and the exotic travel: postpone marriages.
Now, before some have a cardiac episode, he is just having a little fun.
Still, he has a point.
Durrant has street cred in Provo, where he grew up, and is a great follow on Twitter. The former BYU player, who competed during the height of Roger Reid’s run with the Cougars, has an older brother Devin, who played for an Elite Eight BYU team. Mark possesses a great local culture sense of humor, and periodically leaves his law practice to do color commentary on BYU basketball broadcasts.
BYU’s basketball program is in the second of two years in which key players have left the program early to pursue pro careers, leaving teammates to rebuild and coaches to cover their tracks with transfers and young recruits.
Eric Mika left after his sophomore year in 2017, opting to take his game and his wife to Italy, a country where he and his beloved served as missionaries. Elijah Bryant, who does a YouTube video with his wife, announced last week he had hired an agent and is looking to play for pay.
Yoeli Childs, who will be a junior next fall, is exploring his draft stock. He is single. So far.
“I’ve figured out what to do,” said Durrant. “Would you like to hear the great revelation?"
Yeah, I answered.
“Here’s the silver bullet. Guys getting married. College is so fun. Why would you ever want to get out of college. Once you get married, college isn’t fun anymore and you say, ‘I’ve got to move on with life.’ The last thing I wanted to do when I was in college was to leave college; it was great. But once you get married, it all changes. With Mika and Bryant, they were like saying, ‘Why should I spin my wheels another year? I’ve got a family, let’s go make some money.’
“So my advice for coach (Dave) Rose is not to let Yoeli get married and don’t let anybody else get married.”
On a more serious, realistic note, Durrant says losing talent from one year to the next in college is just part of the program.
Durrant remembers back in his day when Michael Smith, the team’s most prolific scorer, left a Ladell Andersen-coached team that was ranked in the top three at one point. What it means, said Durrant, is that other players simply need to step up.
With Smith gone, the Cougars were picked to finish last in the WAC. “We had Andy Toolson and Marty Haws and we just had to play better. Everyone had to step up their senior year.
“It’s not the end of the world to lose Elijah as long as others fill the void, play better, kind of like Marty did for us. I hope they do.
“The thing with Elijah is he let people know so the coaches could plan for it. Mika’s situation was a little bit of a surprise.”
In the coming months, a player like TJ Haws, who like Bryant, likes to have the ball in his hands, can score outside, penetrate, finish at the rim, draw fouls and make free throws, is a perfect example of someone who needs to step up.
Haws played in a funk last season. Unlike the year before when he took freshman shots but showed streaks of brilliance, this past year he missed wide-open looks, attempts he’d ordinarily bury.
There are a lot of theories out there as to why Haws struggled. Did the emphasis on playing tough defense impact his shot? Did not having a green light to shoot in the deliberate offense coached by Heath Schroyer hurt his confidence?
Bottom line is the 2018-19 season is an opportunity for guys like Haws, Jahshire Hardnett, McKay Cannon, Zac Seljaas, Nick Emery, Rylan Bergersen and incoming freshmen off missionary service Connor Harding and Gavin Baxter to perform.
Opportunity is a great motivator. Rose can use it.
There are points to divvy out.
And he can always stoke up the old college-life fire.