MESA, Arizona — It was hot, but then again it was Mesa in May. The setting was ideal, not only was the recent BYU Fan Fest staged in the iconic Pioneer Park, named after Mormon settlers of the community, but the stately temple was right across the street.
It was almost ironic that the temple was about to be redone, and according to news reports, would be in many ways restored to its past glory. It is estimated that the temple restoration will take two years, but if BYU football fans are looking for a restoration to past glory, a one-year turnaround would be much nicer.
Thousands of BYU fans attended the well-planned event and enjoyed the array of venues, including a variety of signing booths with BYU men and women athletes and coaches, highlighted by Kalani Sitake and Jeff Grimes.
Along with a cameo appearance by former BYU and Baltimore Ravens star tight end Dennis Pitta, a welcome by Mesa Mayor and former BYU track star John Giles, a live broadcast with BYU Sports Nation anchors Spencer Linton, Jarom Jordan and Jason Shepard, the day was highlighted by the presence of two former high school heroes from Mesa-area high schools, Lee Cummard and Payton Dastrup.
It was special to see Cummard, who recently became a BYU assistant basketball coach, with the departure of Heath Schroyer. I reflected on the life of Cummard's uncle, my friend Neal Nelson, one of the most true-blue BYU fans in the Phoenix area. Nelson died about a year ago, a great fan to the end, and so proud of his nephew.
In 2004, on the way to the Arizona 5A basketball championship, the Cummard-led Mesa High Jackrabbits came to the Mountain View High gym to face off against the Toros, who were coached by the legendary Gary Ernst.
The game was a titanic battle, witnessed by BYU head basketball Coach Steve Cleveland, who successfully recruited Cummard away from Arizona State and UCLA to come to BYU. Cummard and the Mesa High team prevailed, but only after a tenacious battle by the Toros. The fiesty Mesa Mountain View player designated to guard Cummard was none other than Max Hall, who was ultimately destined for greatness on the BYU football field.
Cummard's BYU basketball career put him in elite company, and he compiled top-20 stats in BYU lore in scoring, field-goal percentage, 3-pointers, free-throw percentage, rebounds, blocked shots and steals — amazingly versatile.
If Cummard can coach a few of those type of performances, BYU's successful program will continue to flourish.
Dastrup had dominating performances during his Mesa Mountain View career. He was also coached by Ernst, and had national recognition during his senior year. He was rated as a 4-star recruit, and his national stature almost took him to the Big Ten, to play for the Ohio State Buckeyes.
Instead, BYU coach Dave Rose brought him into the BYU fold. In the meantime, Dastrup finished his last high school season on an upbeat note. There was an early confrontation of future BYU talent in the Arizona state basketball playoffs.
Dastrup and his Toro teammates faced off against BYU recruit Jake Toolson and his Gilbert Highland High Hawks. My son Ryan and I witnessed the showdown and were impressed with the talent of the two outstanding players. It didn't hurt that we were following the prolific scoring night of BYU star guard Matt Carlino on our iPhones, as he lit up the Portand Pilots in a West Coast Conference game with a 3-point barrage.
Dastrup dominated the entire game with a 24-point performance in a Mountain View victory. He also was in double figures in rebounds and blocked shots. Toolson made a valiant comeback attempt with 25 points in the fourth quarter and 43 total for the game, but came up short on the scoreboard.
Dastrup and Toolson have had college careers that took different turns, but Dastrup showed flashes of brilliance last year. His performance in coming off the bench against the Utah Utes in a decisive Cougar victory was one of the highlights of the season.
BYU fans are hoping for solid performances this coming year from coach Cummard and Cougar big man Dastrup. With team star Yoeli Childs announcing his return for his junior year, there is a significant upside for the team. And BYU fans from Mesa, Arizona, will be watching with great interest.
Ken Driggs of Mesa, Arizona, is a BYU graduate and served as Cosmo in the ’60s. Contact him at [email protected].