PROVO — One day after BYU capped its 24-11 season with a first-round NIT loss at Stanford, assistant basketball coach Heath Schroyer accepted the head coaching job at McNeese State.
Schroyer’s second tour of duty in Provo lasted just one year but his contributions made a significant impact in how the Cougars play, with a slower tempo and more emphasis on the defensive end.
As BYU prepares to open the 2018-19 campaign Nov. 6 at Nevada, the Cougars are expected to play more fast-paced — similar to the teams coach Dave Rose, who’s entering his 14th year at the helm, has put on the floor in the past.
Junior guard TJ Haws is happy about returning to a more run-and-gun style.
“Last year, I felt like we slowed the ball down a lot. The way our offense was set up, we’re going to set this screen and the play will be right here. This year, the ball’s in our hands a little bit more and we’re each given the responsibility and opportunity to make plays on our own and make plays for other people,” he said. “We’re going to play a lot faster this year, which is the style that I was recruited to play here. I’m getting back to what I came here to play for. I’m really excited to play like that. I’ve been playing this style my whole life. I’m excited to get that going again.”
What does junior forward Yoeli Childs see as the biggest differences between last year and this year?
“The differences will be pretty subtle. We’re going to play a little bit quicker and push it on the break more than we did last year. Defensively, we’ll do a lot of similar things and emphasize some of the things we did last season,” he said. “The biggest difference is just maturity and growth. We have a lot of upperclassmen now. Guys know exactly what they’re doing. They know how to be in the right spots and they know how to prepare themselves and take care of their bodies for the length of the season. It’s going to be a big improvement from that aspect.”
Rose said winning trumps style of play — and it’s important to play to the strength of the personnel.
“Everyone wants to run and play a fast-paced game and they want to get up and down the floor and play an exciting brand of basketball. All the coaches and players talk about it in the offseason. Then when you get your guys together, the most important thing is to figure out how you’re going to win with the group that you have,” Rose said. “Last year was a little slower paced for us than normal. We had certain personnel issues that we needed to make sure that once we lost (guard) Nick (Emery), we knew we’d have to rely on other guys. We felt a half-court game was a little bit better for the strength of the team. A lot of decisions go into how you’re going to play. The plan for this team is to play like most of the teams we’ve had here, to play fast and get the ball up and down the floor. The most important thing is to figure out how to win.”
Assistant coach Quincy Lewis, who is going into his fourth season on Rose’s staff, is expected to take on a bigger role this season.
“It’s been great to have him doing a lot of our offense. He studies the game so much and he works so hard outside of practice to make sure he’s ready,” said Haws, who played for Lewis at Lone Peak High. “More responsibility from him is a great thing. He’ll do a great job for us this year. What I love most about Quincy is he feeds confidence into all of his guys. I think everyone is playing better, more like themselves this year. Zac (Seljaas), Yoeli and Jahshire (Hardnett) look great. All the guys are playing more like the way they feel they can play.”
“Quincy will be a lot more involved, vocally, with the guys. He’s got a great basketball mind and the success he’s had as a head coach is tremendous to have on our staff,” Rose said. “He’s got really good ideas. I have a lot of confidence in him. I think he’ll have a bigger role. His role has been really big here the last couple of years. On game day, you’ll see him be a lot more involved.”
One aspect of this team that Rose enjoys is the return of key experienced players, as well as the improvement of sophomore Rylan Bergersen and the addition of freshmen Gavin Baxter, Connor Harding and Kolby Lee.
“The returning juniors are the mainstays of our program. That junior class is a really exciting group of guys that I’m looking forward to getting on the court and going to battle with,” Rose said. “The six juniors and two seniors give us eight upperclassmen. The excitement stems from the history of our program. Our best teams have been when we’ve had very good, experienced players in our program, seniors and juniors, with really talented sophomores and freshmen. That’s the mix of our roster this year. Rylan is ready to step in and help us and Connor and Gavin and Kolby. They bring a great deal of talent, energy and size.”34 comments on this story
That experience has been evident since the Cougars began practicing a few weeks ago.
“In practice, to this point, compared to the first few practices last year, things are quicker and a lot more precise,” Rose said. “The guys understand what we’re doing and we’re bringing the other guys along. Hopefully, we can be further along. We have a real challenge in our opening game. We look forward to playing Nevada at their place. Hopefully, we’ll be in pretty good form to be able to compete for a win.”