Becoming a one-man show is an easy habit to fall into when a team has a player the caliber of Jimmer Fredette (who averaged 22.1 points per game last year), and that’s exactly what happened at times last season. But, the Cougars of course were at their best when other players were making their own strong contributions, and it’s hoped that the Cougars will have more of that this year.
“I hope one of the strengths of this team is our depth, but we don’t really know that until you start playing in games,” said Coach Rose.
Indeed, the team doesn’t know just yet how well certain players will step up or how the newcomers will contribute. Rose went so far as to say that the players lost after last season – Jonathan Tavernari, Chris Miles, Tyler Haws, Michael Loyd and Lamont Morgan – might be the biggest collective hole his staff has ever had to fill.
Still, BYU isn’t a team simply consisting of Fredette and a bunch of other guys.
“I think one of the things that Jimmer’s really excited about is the talent that he has around him, and those guys will be really important to his success,” said Rose.
“I think we had a lot of experience last year with JT and Chris Miles and Lamont … Mike Loyd, and all those guys that were on the team and that have played a lot and have been in the system for a long time,” said Fredette, “and this year we got some guys that are gonna play that haven’t been in the system very long or haven’t had a lot of experience, so it’s just kind of gonna be a learning experience at first, but hopefully we can gel and have a team that is able to be just as good or better than last year I think.”
Fredette will be joined by fellow senior guard Jackson Emery, who should continue to provide great defense and strong three-point shooting. Charles Abouo will utilize his great athleticism and strength to pound the boards and defend. Brandon Davies, Noah Hartsock and returned missionary Chris Collinsworth meanwhile will all contribute in the low post.
And while Rose said they’ll lean on their experienced players, he added that “the three new guys – Stephen Rogers and Anson Winder and Kyle Collinsworth – those three guys are really talented and we’ll see how quickly they pick things up.”
Anson had knee surgery just a few days into preseason workouts, and though the freshman guard isn’t experiencing much pain and won’t miss any team practices, Rose said his lateral movement and speed aren’t back to full strength yet. Rose, who said they’ll have to be patient with Anson, anticipates him being at full strength within the coming weeks.
Fortunately, both Rogers (a junior college All-American forward last year) and Kyle Collinsworth (younger brother to Chris) are healthy and, according to Rose, have looked “really, really good.”
Big things are expected of Kyle, as demonstrated by the fact that he is the preseason MWC Freshman of the Year. Rose said he likes Kyle at the point and thinks he has a good future there, though he doesn’t anticipate there being many available minutes at the point this season thanks to Fredette. In the meantime, Kyle should see some time in a backup role there and then also at the two and three spots.
“I do know that when he’s on the floor he is a great competitor, but he plays to win,” Rose said about Kyle. “I mean, he reminds me so much of Lee Cummard [in] that whatever play needs to be made, that he’s really unselfish. He’s a willing passer, and it doesn’t matter if he scores, but it really matters if his team scores, and I think that’s important.”
Rose is also excited about his post players.
“That frontline will determine how good this team’s gonna be, ‘cause we got a good backcourt,” he said.
One of the concerns will be replacing the strong defense that Chris Miles provided from the post last year. It’s a task that will fall on multiple players’ shoulders, but particularly Brandon Davies.
“It’s a real art to play like we want them to play, as physical as we want them to play, and stay out of foul trouble,” said Rose. “Chris Miles went through it, Trent Plaisted went through it – the guys that have anchored that spot for us – and that will be interesting with Brandon. He’s kind of foul-prone, and he’s gotta figure out a way to find that mix to where he can be physical and still keep himself on the floor. And that’s why I am excited; I think we’ve got three or four guys who can play in that low post position depending on matchups, and you’ve got 15 fouls in that spot, and that allows us to still be really physical.”
Rose isn’t exactly sure how Chris Collinsworth – who returned home last April from his mission in Australia – will hold up, but expects a lot out of him and complimented his competitiveness. He said Chris is in great shape compared to when he first got home, but added that “usually for bigger guys it takes ‘til midseason – December or so – ’til they really feel real comfortable, so we’ll see.”
With the first day of practice taking place Friday evening, it will be a while until people see how the team comes together. But while teams will likely try and shut the Cougars down by shutting Fredette down, he thinks his teammates will be more than capable of making opponents pay for focusing too much on him.
“It’s gonna be tough like I said to do that, just because we have a great team,” Fredette said. “We have a lot of good players on this team that can really kill you if you just leave them wide open.”
And while the Cougars will ideally get strong play from their returning players and newcomers so that Fredette doesn’t have to do too much, it’s still good to know that they have a player capable of taking over a game.
Now a long-time removed from the health issues that slowed him down at times last season, and coming off of a summer in which he played for the USA Select Team that trained against the USA Men's National Team, Fredette is poised for another big year.
When asked if Fredette looks as good physically as Rose has seen him, Rose replied, “Yeah, he looks really good. I think that what I like most about him is just how confident he is. I think all the things that happened to him this summer have really helped his confidence level. He’s always felt really comfortable in this gym playing with these guys, but I believe playing against Derrick Rose and Rajon Rondo and Eric Gordon … really helped [him understand] that he’s one of the premiere guards in the country.”