PROVO — BYU junior guard Nick Emery hasn’t had the type of impact on the offensive side of the ball that many expected upon his return to the team after a nine-game suspension at the start of the season.
Emery has scored more than 1,000 points in his Cougar career and twice has scored 37 points in a single game. He made 97 3-pointers as a freshman and 75 as a sophomore. He averaged 16.3 points per game as a freshman and 13.1 as a sophomore.
Through 13 games this season, Emery is averaging a modest 5.2 points and he’s made 10 of 35 3-pointers. In last Thursday’s 71-66 win over Saint Mary’s, Emery scored seven points and contributed key defensive plays and assists.
The way coach Dave Rose sees it, the fact Emery has made significant progress off the court in the wake of serious personal issues he’s had to deal with the past couple of years is even more important than his performance in games.
“I don’t think on the court he is (the same player he was as a freshman),” Rose said recently. “But I do feel that the rest of his life is in a place where he is successful in everything that he’s doing. He’s had a great summer semester academically, a great fall semester academically. I think his social life is back to being normal. He went through a really hard year-and-a-half — with a marriage and a divorce, and life-threatening situations that he was involved in, to where he is now, with the guys, on a team, and his life from 8 in the morning until midnight, is probably back into that spot.
“His game? He’s still continuing to try to find it and develop it,” Rose continued. “Defensively, he’s playing as good of defensive basketball as he’s ever played. His energy is terrific. His efficiency on the offensive end is something, you know, he wants to be better and so we’ll keep working on it. I couldn’t be happier with where we were maybe 14-15 months ago to where we are right now as far as him progressing.”
Emery has not been made available to the media since the day before his first game back, against Utah State, in early December.
BAXTER’S EMERGENCE: Freshman forward Gavin Baxter went through a stretch earlier this season where he saw limited playing time.
Then against Pepperdine he played 23 minutes and then he saw 27 minutes of action against Saint Mary’s last Thursday. Baxter played a major role in helping the Cougars win both of those games.
Against the Waves, he scored 13 points and grabbed six rebounds to go along with three blocked shots. Against the Gaels, he had 10 points, five rebounds and two blocks. Baxter’s athletic ability has been a big help for BYU, both offensively and defensively.
“Gavin’s just getting better and better right now on the floor. He has a lot of confidence and he’s playing great and I’m really proud of him,” said guard TJ Haws. “That (7-foot, 3-inch) wingspan is super long and he can challenge a lot of shots and we made them feel uncomfortable. A lot of that was Gavin. He did a good job of that.”
“He was what we needed. His length caused Fitts some problems,” Rose said of Baxter’s contributions against Saint Mary’s. “His length made (Fitts) miss. He blocked a shot on him. Then his energy as far as getting a couple of offensive rebounds for baskets in the second half, a big offensive rebound put-back, then a big dunk. His legs are live and his length really helps us.”
NIXON’S ROLE: With Baxter getting more playing time, forward Dalton Nixon has been getting less in recent weeks.
But Nixon is willing to help the team in any way he can, according to Rose.
“Dalton understands our system as well as anybody. He’s in the right place defensively. I think I can count on Dalt in any situation,” Rose said. “Right now, in the rotation, Gavin’s been getting more minutes the last couple of weeks. I’ve had two or three really good conversations with Dalt and he’s a guy that is in a great spot to help this team in any situation we get into.”10 comments on this story
HOME COURT ADVANTAGE: Yoeli Childs credited the crowd of 11,427 at the Marriott Center for its role in helping the Cougars beat Saint Mary's.
“I felt like the crowd was unbelievable the whole night," he said. "I was really impressed by our fans. They did a great job of giving us an energy boost and they had a big effect on the Saint Mary’s guys.”
TIP-INS: Childs recorded his 12th double-double of the season and 32nd of his career in the win over Saint Mary’s. He is now fifth all-time in career double-doubles in BYU history. … BYU only had two turnovers against Saint Mary’s, including none in the second half.