Provo • When he met with media members last month to discuss his basketball team’s prospects for the 2012-13 season, BYU coach Dave Rose said the words “perimeter shooting” more than a dozen times.
Simply put, whether the Cougars can shoot well from the outside — a skill that came and went last year in their inaugural West Coast Conference season and a shortcoming that kept them from pulling off an upset of Marquette in the second round of the NCAA Tournament — will largely determine whether Rose’s eighth season at the helm is a successful one.
“That is an area where we definitely need improvement,” Rose said.
With the Cougars set to open the season on Friday night against Tennessee State at the Marriott Center, their outside shooting has seemingly improved — if exhibition wins over Southeastern Oklahoma State and Findlay are any indication. Rose made a point last spring of challenging returning backcourt players such as Matt Carlino, Brock Zylstra, Craig Cusick and Anson Winder to improve their perimeter shooting ability.
The additions of Tyler Haws, back from an LDS Church mission, and juco transfer Raul Delgado, a sharpshooter at Western Nebraska Community College last season, should also bolster the shooting percentage, although replacing graduated stalwarts Noah Hartsock and Charles Abouo won’t be easy.
Other new faces include Agustin Ambrosino, a transfer from Salt Lake Community College, and freshmen Cory Calvert and Cooper Ainge, Danny’s son.
“The ball is going to go in the basket more for us this year,” said Zylstra, elected a team captain along with Haws and budding superstar Brandon Davies. “Guys worked really, really hard on their shooting over the summer, and Tyler can make shots from anywhere on the floor. Tyler, a lot of [WCC coaches] don’t know how good he really is. He should be on the all-conference team at the end of the season.”
So far, Rose has liked what he has seen, although the true test probably won’t come until the Cougars play in the Coaches vs. Cancer Charity Classic in Brooklyn, N.Y. next week against Florida State and then either Notre Dame or St. Joseph’s.
“They have prepared well,” Rose said. “They are talented, and I think we have a really good frontline that is going to cause defenses to have to adjust to guard us there. That should give us some pretty good, clean looks at the basket. And hopefully we can throw them in.”
If the Cougars have a concern, it is depth in the frontcourt, after inside players Chris Collinsworth and Stephen Rogers were forced to quit basketball due to lingering injuries.
BYU is so thin there that the coaching staff approached 6-foot-6 football player Bronson Kaufusi, an all-state basketball player in high school, about his interest in joining the team after BYU’s bowl game.
“We’ve got to be able to stay out of foul trouble inside,” Rose acknowledged.
With Brandon Davies dominating inside as expected and Tyler Haws picking up where he left off in 2009-10 before a church mission, the Cougars get consistent scoring help from a third source and win at least 12 of their 15 mostly difficult nonconference games. With Matt Carlino taking better care of the ball than he did last year, and improving his shot selection, the Cougars win enough games to earn another NCAA Tournament bid.
Lack of depth inside manifests itself at next week’s tournament in Brooklyn, N.Y., and a pair of confidence-sapping losses lead to several more in December, losses that mean the Cougars must win the WCC tournament in Las Vegas to continue coach Dave Rose’s remarkable streak of NCAA Tournament appearances.
Tennessee State at BYU
P Friday, 7 p.m.
TV • BYUtv
All times Mountain
Friday • Tennessee State, 7 p.m.
Nov. 13 • Georgia State, 7 p.m.
Nov. 16 • vs. Florida State at Coaches vs. Cancer Classic, Brooklyn, N.Y. 5 p.m.
Nov. 17 • vs. Notre Dame or St. Joseph’s at Brooklyn, N.Y., TBA
Nov. 21 • vs. Texas-San Antonio, 7 p.m.
Nov. 24 • vs. Cal State Northridge, 7 p.m.
Nov. 28 • vs. Montana at Energy Solutions Arena, SLC, 7 p.m.
Dec. 1 • at Iowa State, noon
Dec. 5 • Utah State, 7 p.m.
Dec. 8 • Utah, 7 p.m.
Dec. 15 • at Weber State, 7 p.m.
Dec. 18 • Eastern New Mexico, 7 p.m.
Dec. 21 • at Baylor, 7 p.m.
Dec. 27 • Northern Arizona, 7 p.m.
Dec. 29 • vs. Virginia Tech at Energy Solutions Arena, SLC, noon
Jan. 3 • Loyola Marymount, 7 p.m.
Jan. 5 • at San Francisco, TBA
Jan. 10 • Pepperdine, 7 p.m.
Jan. 12 • at Santa Clara, TBA
Jan. 16 • St. Mary’s, 9 p.m.
Jan. 19 • San Diego, 7 p.m.
Jan. 24 • at Gonzaga, 9 p.m.
Jan. 26 • at Portland, 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 31 • at Pepperdine, 7 p.m.
Feb. 2 • Santa Clara, 7 p.m.
Feb. 7 • at San Diego, TBA
Feb. 9 • San Francisco, 7 p.m.
Feb. 16 • Portland, 7 p.m.
Feb. 21 • at St. Mary’s, 9 p.m.
Feb. 28 • Gonzaga, 9 p.m.
March 2 • at Loyola Marymount, 9 p.m.
WCC Championships • March 6-11 at Orleans Arena, Las Vegas