BYU basketball focuses on culture, development during summer workouts
The BYU men’s basketball team began off-season team workouts on June 25.
Junior point guard Jahshire Hardnett, who arrived in Provo from the JC ranks last season, showed up at the Marriott Center Annex down 2 percent body fat. Hardnett posted a video on social media where the 6-foot guard rose up easily for a dunk.
That’s the kind of commitment that catches a coach’s attention.
Hardnett and his teammates will spend the next six weeks under the watchful eye of the BYU coaching staff at the Annex as they build a team for the 2018-19 season.
“We really use this time to establish a base for what we want to do offensively and defensively, and we want to develop the culture of the team for the coming year,” BYU assistant coach Quincy Lewis said. “It’s really been a fun group. We have a number of guys coming back that know each other and we added a few returned missionaries to the mix. I really like this group.”
The Cougars are not at full strength yet, which is typical of summer workouts. Junior guard Nick Emery, who was reinstated to the team in June after missing last season, had his appendix out and likely won’t join workouts until the end of July.
Forwards Ryan Andrus and Dalton Nixon are rehabbing from off-season surgeries — Andrus missed all of the 2017-18 season due to injury — and are two or three weeks away from going full speed. Forward Braiden Shaw, who played in just one game last season due to injury, is having an ankle issue that will keep him under observation until the end of summer to see if he will play in 2018-19.
With some of the veterans out, the coaches are working more with players new to the program, including freshmen Kolby Lee, Gavin Baxter and Connor Harding.
Lee joined the Cougars midseason but didn’t play. Baxter and Harding are recently returned missionaries from the recruiting class of 2016.
“Kids like Kolby, Gavin and Connor have tremendous potential,” Lewis said. “It’s great spending time with them now.”
Lewis said head coach Dave Rose met with each of the players from last year’s roster for about an hour at the end of the season to discuss what comes next.
“They talk about what happened during the season, and where we want to go in the future,” Lewis said. “He finds out where a player sees himself and how we can help him get there. It’s true communication and helps us move in the right direction.”
Those discussions eventually led to leader scorer Elijah Bryant opting to pursue a professional career and junior-to-be Payton Dastrup deciding to transfer to Oregon State. It also set the returning players on the path that will hopefully benefit the team as a whole.
“I think back to my old days, coaches would just say ‘this is what we’re doing, I don’t owe it to the kid to tell him everything because he’ll be here for four years,’” Lewis said. “That has gradually changed over the years. I think we’ve done a good job of telling the guys where we want to go.”
The NCAA allows the coaching staff to work eight hours with their players each week during the summer semester. One big change from last season is how those hours are split up. Previously, players were allowed just two hours of work with a basketball and four hours of weight lifting and/or conditioning. This year, the split is four hours on the court and four hours of conditioning.
With Bryant on his professional path, other Cougars will need to step into new roles.
Junior Yoeli Childs, who dipped his toe in the NBA waters before deciding to come back to BYU, will be one of the premier big men in the West next season after posting 17.8 points and 8.4 rebounds per game in 2017-18.
Hardnett started 32 games and averaged six points and 2.7 assists per game last season and has impressed the coaching staff with his commitment entering summer drills.
“Jahshire came back in really good physical condition,” Lewis said. “With that year of experience and knowing what we expect, we like the direction he’s going.”
Lewis also praised junior Zac Seljaas and sophomore Rylan Bergersen for their efforts in the first week.
“Zac would be the first one to tell you he felt like he could have played much better last year,” Lewis said. “He had such a fantastic freshman season. He’s played really well so far and I think he’ll have an excellent year. And Rylan has worked his tail off. He went home to Idaho after school got out and just being around his dad (Roberto), who played in the NBA, was really good for him.”
The program is also adjusting to a new assistant coach in Lee Cummard. The former Cougar player has been a grad assistant for the past two seasons, so the players are familiar with his style. Adjusting to the loss of Heath Schroyer, who took his big personality to become head coach at McNeese State, will require some time.
“Heath did some great things for the program and a lot of those we’ll keep for sure,” Lewis said. “Every season we evaluate what we did and try to make improvements from there.
“Lee has really hit the ground running. What’s neat about Lee is he’s been pro-active with recruiting, which is something we talk about daily. Lee has great connections in Europe from his time playing professionally there. He’s been a great addition to what we already have.”