BYU Men’s Hoops: Roster management is the life that Rose leads
During his Wednesday news conference BYU coach Dave Rose was asked if he ever gets used to juggling and adjusting his roster.
“Used to it?” Rose said with a laugh. “It’s all I do. It’s my life. My wife wants me to get used to something else like maybe watching a movie or going to dinner. This is what I do.”
Managing college basketball rosters is more of an art form than a skill, especially at BYU where two-year LDS missions create unique challenges. Rose speculated that he has “eight or nine” recruiting classes represented on this season’s roster. There were nine players who left the BYU program at the end of the 2016-17 due to graduation, transfer, missions or pro basketball. Eight newcomers joined the team during the spring and summer, but the movement wasn’t over yet. Two-year starter Nick Emery left the team before the start of the regular-season due to personal issues. Weber State transfer McKay Cannon was not expected to be eligible but was given a waiver by the NCAA and junior college transfer Kajon Brown left school just 16 games into his first season. Kolby Lee, a 6-foot-9 forward from Idaho, returned early from his LDS mission and has also joined the team.
Then there are the injuries, which claimed sophomore Ryan Andrus and junior Braiden Shaw for the season and valuable sophomore forward Dalton Nixon for the past ten games.
“What you really learn to appreciate is we went on five, six or seven-year run where that (roster turnover) was not the main concern of every team,” Rose said. “We’re on a run right now where I think it’s going to continue because of rule changes. The NCAA is meeting right now to talk about transfer rules that could really turn things upside down. The days of having five sophomores turn into five juniors turn into five seniors, all the same guys, there will be very few schools running their program that way.”
The 10-team West Coast Conference is like the rest of college basketball in that roster turnover is a big deal. Approximately 63 players in the league left their respective programs during the offseason and 66 newcomers joined rosters. Gonzaga, which advanced to the NCAA championship game, lost eight players but had several young redshirts ready to roll. Saint Mary’s had just three spots change on its roster but other schools had a tremendous amount of turnover. Pepperdine (10 players lost, nine newcomers) and Portland (nine players lost, 11 newcomers) are almost unrecognizable.
BYU’s opponent on Thursday, Loyola Marymount, saw eight players leave the program (four transferred) and brought in seven new players. Newcomers James Batemon — a junior college All-American averaging 17.5 points per game – and true freshmen Joe Quintana and Eli Scott are starters for the Lions.
Rose said Nixon practiced for the first time since the injury on Wednesday and he’ll be evaluated on Thursday to see how he feels.
“I think we’re pretty set on how we want to play, who we want to play and where want to play them,” Rose said. “We’d like to Rylan (Bergerson) more involved in the rotation to increase the depth of our guard line. Hopefully we get Dalt back in there, then we get five post guys. You just have to anticipate things — illness, injury, a lot of different things that come up. Hopefully your deep enough to be consistent.”
Loyola Marymount has won just one WCC game, a 67-65 victory against San Francisco on Jan. 11. Jeffery McClendon connected on three free throws with less than a second remaining on the game clock to earn the victory.
“I think it’s a team that for us to match up against and guard is really difficult,” Rose said. “Hopefully we’ll have an advantage on the other end to make them make some adjustments that might help us a little bit.”
BYU is coming off two wins – at home against Pepperdine and on the road at Santa Clara – where the Cougars were at their best offensively. BYU shot better than 50 percent from the field against Pepperdine and an other-worldly 79 percent in the first half against the Broncos.
Junior Elijah Bryant and sophomore Yoeli Childs have shoulder much of the scoring load for BYU but sophomore T.J. Haws seemed to find his range last week and other contributed as well.
“I think our team just takes what the defense gives it,” BYU junior Elijah Bryant said. “Sometimes it’ll be T.J.’s night, sometimes it will be Yoeli’s night, sometimes it will be two guys’ night. It can be anyone’s night every night.”