BYU Hoops: Cannon starts Cougar career with a bang
With 4:31 remaining in the first half of Wednesday’s 85-58 victory at Utah Valley, BYU guard McKay Cannon checked into the game for his first official duty in a Cougar uniform.
About three minutes later, he introduced himself in a very big way.
As the shot clock ticked down, Cannon drained a pull-up 3-pointer with defender in his face for a 37-24 BYU lead.
His teammates were not surprised.
“McKay is a beast,” said BYU sophomore forward Yoeli Childs, a bit of beast himself against the Wolverines with a career-high 24 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks. “He’s been on the practice squad all year because we were thinking he was going to have to redshirt. He just kills us sometimes. That pull-up three he had? That’s like automatic for him. He’s so tough to guard. He’s a gritty player who will do anything to win a game. We knew he was going to come out and play like that.”
Cannon, who transferred to BYU this spring after two seasons at Weber State, requested a waiver from the NCAA to allow him to play right away instead of sitting out a year. The long wait finally paid off Wednesday afternoon when BYU Compliance Director Chad Gwilliam called Cannon to give him the good news: He was eligible to play.
Cannon — who as an ineligible practice player wasn’t allowed to ride on the team bus for the 15-minute drive to the UCCU Center — quickly gathered together his uniform and made his way to Orem.
Then he got his opportunity. BYU coach Dave Rose said the coaching staff had discussed the possibility of Cannon playing earlier in the week and with some first half foul trouble on the guard line, that discussion became a reality.
“McKay got a chance to get in there and he looked really comfortable,” Rose said. “He looked like he plays in practice. He’ll really help our team. He’s got a lot of experience. When you think about the youth of our team, and what he’s done, he’s started 41 Division I games. He brings that to this group.”
Cannon finished his first game with a pretty impressive stat line: Eight points, a pair of 3-pointers, a team-high six assists, a block and a steal in 20 minutes of play.
So suddenly, the Cougars now have some point guard depth with Jahshire Hardnett, T.J. Haws and Cannon all capable of running the team.
“It’s obviously kind of a blur,” Cannon said. “More than anything I just wanted to play hard and I did, and the team followed. It was good to just see it go in, my first shot as a BYU Cougar. The coaches never told me if I was going to play or not but I had a feeling. I was working hard and playing well and I was ready.”
Cannon’s six assists were part of a great passing night for BYU, which assisted on 25 of its 30 baskets.
“The open guy is the go-to guy on this team,” Cannon said. “We’ve got a lot of great players. The best thing about it is we’re all unselfish so the ball gets moving and we’re hard to guard.”
Sort of full
While the BYU-UVU game at the UCCU Center was announced as a sellout — capacity is 8,500 — the reported attendance was short of that with 7,574. It was the largest home crowd since a 2010 meeting with Utah State. In 2009, 7,542 fans attended a Utah Flash game at what was then called the McKay Center with a promise of an appearance by NBA superstar Michael Jordan that never materialized.
The Cougars continue a string of four of five games against in-state opponents with a trip to Logan on Saturday to play Utah State.
“It’s a different vibe,” Childs said. “You know a lot of the guys personally. Everybody knows everybody. The rivalry is in the stands and you hear both teams going back and forth. In-state games are a great environment.”
The last time the Cougars met the Aggies in Logan was in December 2014. Tyler Haws scored 35 points in a 91-81 BYU victory in front of 10,270 fans at the Spectrum. Junior forward Luke Worthington is the only player from that team still on the Cougar roster.
The Aggies are 4-4 this season after Tuesday’s 72-65 loss at Valparaiso. Utah State has had early injury issues, losing big man Norbert Janicek for the season to a knee injury. Leading returning scorer and Mountain West Conference Freshman of the Year Koby McEwen (15 ppg in 2016-17) is dealing with an ankle injury and has played just once in the past five games. Senior guard Julian Pearre has also been injured and hasn’t played yet this season.