Deseret News
Brigham Young Cougars forward Gavin Baxter (25) in congratulated on his first double double against the Loyola Marymount Lions at the Marriott Center in Provo on Saturday, Feb. 2, 2019.

LAS VEGAS — BYU forward Gavin Baxter was sidelined in last Saturday’s home victory over San Diego in the regular-season finale.

Baxter was sick all last week, but he’s returned to practice this week and is expected to play when the Cougars compete in the West Coast Conference quarterfinals Saturday night at Orleans Arena.

Coach Dave Rose said Baxter blocked three shots in his first eight minutes back on the practice floor.

“He’s got great basketball instincts, especially on the defensive end around the rim,” Rose said. “Just how long we’ll be able to play him as we get started here, hopefully, we can still count on the real 23-28 minutes that he’s been giving us. We may have to do it in a different way, in shorter periods.”

Baxter, who was named to the WCC All-Freshman team this week, is averaging 7.3 points and 4.3 rebounds per game in conference play. He also has 24 blocks in WCC games.

“He’s going to be great on Saturday for us,” forward Yoeli Childs said of Baxter. “He’s going to 100 percent by Saturday.”

“He’s getting stronger every day. It’s hard coming back from a sickness. You can’t control it,” guard Zac Seljaas said. “You just have to rest. You come back and you’re a little more weak. He’s come a long way from being that ill and getting stronger and getting back.”

NEW TOURNAMENT FORMAT: The WCC Tournament tipped off at Orleans Arena Thursday with a new format in place.

Unlike previous seasons, both the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds get byes all the way to the semifinals on Monday.

“I’ve been watching it for years. The Big East started this years ago. Now, you look at almost every major conference and there’s some type of a play-in to an eight-team format or a four-team format,” Rose said. “The thing that is probably the bigger challenge than an adjustment to the format is still Sunday is in the middle of it. Trying to manage that is an issue.”

The Cougars are scheduled to leave for Las Vegas Friday morning, hold a practice here and watch the first half of the second-round game between either Santa Clara-San Diego or Santa Clara-Portland. BYU will play the winner of that contest Saturday.

“A little unsettling, not knowing who we play,” Rose said. “But it will get narrowed down (Thursday) and then we’ll be down to two teams.”

HAWS SNUBBED: There are those who believe that guard TJ Haws was snubbed by not being named to the All-WCC First Team this week. Haws was placed on the Second Team despite averaging 18.8 points per game.

Does Haws care about that?

“They all care, no question about it. To what extent? Hopefully, it’s a healthy thing,” Rose said. “I think that the majority of media and coaches will tell you he’s one of the top 10 players in the league for sure. If the numbers didn’t work out that way for him, we’ll see how he responds.”

Haws suffered a hard blow to the head during last Saturday’s game against San Diego. Rose said Haws hasn’t been adversely affected by it.

“He’s been full-go,” Rose said.

5 comments on this story

CHILDS’ FUTURE: Childs tested the NBA waters last spring and returned for his junior season. He was asked Thursday if he’ll return to the team next season.

“That’s not really where my thoughts are at right now. My thoughts are on having a great practice tomorrow, having a great game the next day and taking this team as far as we can go,” Childs said. “Obviously, that’s something you think about a little bit. My focus is with this team right now. I’m so grateful that I get to play with this group of guys.”