In many ways, BYU’s Brock Zylstra is like a lot of college basketball players. He worries about his shooting percentage, his assist-to-turnover ratio and his schoolwork as he closes in on a degree in commercial management.
But when Zylstra goes home at night after a practice or a game, he literally goes home. The native of La Verne, Calif., not only has a wife, Sarah, and 17-month-old daughter, Sophia, he also has a mortgage.
“It’s fun,” said the 25-year-old homeowner. “My wife and I bought it ourselves, with our own money, right before we got married. We figured owning a home was better than having money go down the drain for rent. So it has worked out well for us.”
As first-time homebuyers, the Zylstras qualified for a low-interest FHA loan and had to come up with a down payment of only 3.5 percent. With the help of Sarah’s mother, a realtor, they found a modest home in an older Provo neighborhood that featured a basement apartment, which they rent out to another couple to cover about three-fourths of their monthly mortgage payment.
Zylstra gets a monthly housing stipend as part of his basketball scholarship, and Sarah works as an assistant for the co-founder of XanGo, an international multilevel marketing company.
“Brock is a very responsible guy, and a guy that is a go-getter,” said teammate Tyler Haws. “So that doesn’t surprise me at all, that he already has a home.”
Not bad for a former walk-on who at times early in his career wondered if he would ever play any meaningful minutes, let alone become a two-year starter and the winner of the team’s Most Improved Player Award.
“It is amazing how well things have worked out for me,” Zylstra said. “I feel very fortunate … really blessed.”
One of three seniors on BYU’s roster, Zylstra and his teammates will try to bounce back from Thursday’s 74-68 loss to San Diego on Saturday when they play host to San Francisco at the Marriott Center. Zylstra is especially eager to get back on the court after having one of his worst games as a Cougar against the Toreros. He went 0 for 7 from the field.
With only four home games remaining — barring an NIT appearance at home, which is looking more and more likely — Zylstra is starting to reflect on his improbable college career.
After averaging 22 points and 12 rebounds a game at Bonita High, he turned down offers from smaller schools and interest from Ivy League schools to walk on at BYU. He redshirted in 2006-2007, then went on an LDS Church mission to New Zealand.
He scored just 19 points all season as a freshman in 2009-10, and only 33 points in 2010-11 as a sophomore, despite being put on scholarship prior to that season.
Really, Zylstra emerged when the Cougars were touring Greece and playing a half-dozen or so games there the summer before last, shortly after leading scorer Jimmer Fredette was taken in the NBA Draft.
“Coaches showed confidence in me on that trip, and I just felt like it was my time to step up and do the most with the minutes I was getting, and earn a bigger role on the team,” he said.
As a junior, he started in 28 games, playing everything from point guard to power forward, and averaged 8.3 points and 4.3 rebounds per game.
“Brock spent three years here where I would say most of the fans didn’t know who he was, let alone how to spell his name,” BYU coach Dave Rose said. “Those are the kind of guys you get really close to, then you get really excited when good things happen for them.”
In addition to keeping his yard looking nice and neat, and attending to all the responsibilities of a homeowner and landlord, Zylstra still found time last summer to get up 500 shots per game, every day of the week except Sunday. He is averaging 6.9 points and 3.9 rebounds a game this year, slightly below last year’s numbers.
“He is a never-say-die guy,” Rose said. “He just always comes and competes and is ready when there is an opportunity for him.
“This year, he wasn’t playing as well as he would have liked, and he kinda got buried on the bench, and he fought his way back into the starting lineup. He has just taken advantage of every opportunity he’s gotten.”
Including the opportunity to own his own place.
Brock Zylstra file
• Started BYU basketball career as a walk-on, earned a scholarship prior to sophomore season.
• Received team’s Most Improved Player Award after junior season.
• Has started in 22 of 25 games for the Cougars this season, averaging 6.9 points and 3.9 rebounds per game.
• Took 500 shots a day, six days a week, in the offseason to improve his outside shooting.
San Francisco at BYU
O At the Marriott Center (Provo)
Tipoff • 7 p.m.
TV • BYUtv
Radio • 1160 AM, 102.7 FM
Records • BYU 18-7, 8-3; San Francisco 10-13, 3-7
Series history • BYU leads, 8-5
Last meeting • BYU 80, San Francisco 76 (Jan. 5)
About the Dons • They have not played since Saturday, an 86-78 win at Pepperdine. … Cole Dickerson leads them in scoring and rebounding with a 14.5 scoring average and 9.9 rebounds per game. … Cody Doolin registers a team-high 5.7 assists per game and also scores 12.2 points per game. … They are currently in sixth place in the league standings.
About the Cougars • They have lost consecutive games only once this season, at the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic in Brooklyn to Florida State and Notre Dame. … Tyler Haws scored 27 points on 10-for-17 shooting in Thursday’s 74-68 loss at San Diego, but the Cougars were just 11 for 22 from the free-throw line and committed 15 turnovers.