PROVO — It didn't take Nick Emery long to pick up right where he left off during BYU's 95-80 win over Utah State on Wednesday.
It took just short of 10 seconds, to be exact.
With 13:45 left in the first half, Emery entered his first Cougar basketball since March 2017 to big applause from the Marriott Center crowd. Instead of working his way to settle in a bit the junior Lone Peak product sized up a 3-pointer on his first touch, rose up and knocked it down as if he'd never taken his well-publicized leave of absence.
"It doesn't surprise me at all," said BYU guard TJ Haws, someone who has shared a court with Emery since both were very young, after the win. "He's a gamer. He stepped in and knocked down big shots for us tonight...He came in ready to go."
Emery's absence from the team was initially due to some personal issues which saw him withdraw from school before the NCAA mandated a nine-game suspension to start this season due to him accepting improper benefits.
Emery hit another 3-pointer a few minutes later, added a steal and contributed two assists in his first stint, which stretched to the 7:05 mark of the first half. While his play didn't surprise Haws at all, it did catch BYU coach Dave Rose a little by surprise.
"I thought that Nick was probably way better than I thought he'd be," Rose said. "It's not that I don't think he's capable. I just know everything from day one until now on what he's been through and how emotional this was for him, and how much he wanted this to happen."
As for his first shot taken just seconds after returning to the court of the first time in just over 21 months, Rose wasn't taken by surprise.
"I totally expected that," Rose said with a laugh. "I thought he'd maybe take that thing and drive it, and try and get to the rim and get fouled, but he came off that wide-open. He fired it in."
It's no secret BYU has had trouble from behind the arc for the better part of the season, so Emery's immediate contribution was more than welcome.
"We've been challenged from distance and I think anybody that can come in there and make one for us, it just takes so much pressure off of everybody else," Rose said.
Overall Emery finished with 11 points on 4-of-6 shooting from the field, which included a 3-for-4 effort from 3-point range. He played just short of 19 minutes and provided a much-welcome boost for his teammates and the overall play in all areas.
While his teammates are happy for his contributions on the court, knowing what Emery has gone through and now overcome to some degree provides the best satisfaction for those who know him best.
"It's been a long road for him and I'm extremely proud of him," Haws said. "To come out tonight and do what he did was, I think, a very special thing for him and a confidence boost for all of us. He's really going to help us."