BYU basketball: Mika wants to average double-double, make all-WCC team
Perhaps lost in our coverage in Sunday's newspaper (and online Saturday night) of BYU's 47-46 win over Houston was a centerpiece article I wrote about BYU freshman basketball player Eric Mika, and the gigantic expectations that are already being heaped upon this kid. Since the article came out, several folks have asked or emailed me about listing Mika at 6-foot-11. Is he really that tall? Well, who knows? On the updated roster at BYUCougars.com, Mika is listed at 6-10. His profile page on the school's website also lists him at 6-10. However, Mika's profile page on the preseason prospectus handed out by BYU on media day listed him at 6-11. In the very same prospectus, Mika's height is listed at 6-9 on the roster. So, we are going to go with 6-10 for now. But regardless of Mika's real height, there's no doubting that he enters the program with more hype than any player since Shawn Bradley. If he can stay healthy and out of foul trouble, he should have a monster year. In a far-ranging 10-minute interview with Mika last week, the big guy confirmed that he will go on a church mission when the season and winter semester are over. He said no matter what his season is like, he's going. "Yeah, that's for sure," he said. Another takeaway from our chat: Mika isn't shying away from the expectations. "I have goals to average a double-double and then to be the WCC newcomer of the year and to make the all-WCC team. But more important to me is the team goal of winning our conference and getting deep into the tournament," he said.Here are more comments by and about Mika that were gathered before I wrote the story:Coach Dave Rose on the new guys and what they bring:"I have had quite a few conversations, direct and frank conversations with these guys. Because sometimes new guys come in and they are in a position to maybe help, in a position to play a secondary role to somebody who is returning, or who has experience. But we need a group of these guys to step forth and really contribute. We need them to not only feel comfortable in our system, but play comfortably at the pace that we play at. They can't just go through the motions, and think they can go back to how they've always played, and be fine. That's probably the biggest challenge for the young players in our program, is to convince themselves that they can learn the system, and then become comfortable in it as soon as possible. That's especially true of our big guys. We are going to need Luke [Worthingon] and Eric and Graham [Pingree] and those guys to pick this up quick so we can use them in game situations early."Inside player Nate Austin on what surprised him about Mika:"I think Eric is really confident in his game. He's been and strong and athletic, but I think he is really confident for a freshman. We've been working with coach Pope a lot in the summer. I think he's gained a lot of confidence with his inside game. Coach [Mark] Pope knows so much about technique, and helping guys with little adjustments. I think he's helped Eric a lot, and he should be a huge force for us down low. He's big and strong and he is so athletic, that he creates mismatches. I don't think anybody on the opposing team is going to want to guard him because of the strengths he has and all the damage he can do."Austin on whether Mika demands the ball more than a typical freshman:"Coach Pope tells him, hey, if you want the ball, you gotta ask for it. I think our offense is a lot more guard oriented. Coach Pope tells him if he wants the ball, he has to demand it. That's something he has taken to heart. He wants the ball, he wants to score and he wants the ball down low."Austin on all the expectations on Mika, and whether he can handle them:"I think for the most part he just brushes it off. I think he just loves to play the game of basketball, and has the right passion for it. I think the outside attention is just extra stuff. I don't think he thinks about it too much. He just plays hard and that's what he does."Star guard Tyler Haws on the expectations being put on Mika: "There are a lot of expectations for him, but he's ready for them. He wants to have a big impact on this team. Yesterday in practice, he was getting after guys because he wanted the ball and he wasn't getting the ball. For a freshman to have that type of mindset is big. He's made a really good adjustment from the high school to the college level. He'll make a big impact right away." Haws on whether Mika plays like Brandon Davies:"One thing that Brandon did that caused havoc for other teams was the way he ran the floor. Eric does that better than anyone I've seen. He's a really good finisher around the basket and wants to battle inside and get rebounds. He'll provide a big presence for us inside, on both ends of the floor." A few leftover comments from Mika: On toughest adjustments of college, so far:"Just the amount of time it takes. Obviously, everything is different because of the size of the players and the pace, but we just put so many hours into everything we do. We have a strict schedule that we always have to follow. But it is a positive change. I really like it."On whether school work is hard:"It is going well. I am taking classes that are helping me ease my way into college. So I have some easy ones, and then some history classes that are a little bit tougher. But they are not too hard to handle right now. And I am taking them with Luke and Frank and Matt is in one of them. It is nice to have some teammates in there with me." On whether he believes he will start right out of the blocks: "Yeah, that is definitely a goal. I am not 100 percent sure yet. And there are a lot of different lineups the coaches could go with, because of the differences between guys. But that's the goal, and if not at the beginning of the season, but eventually that' s the ultimate goal."On the team's identity:"On the court, we are fast and we are athletic. We like the uptempo style of play. We are running up and down, even in scrimmages. Off the court, we are weird. We are a weird group of guys, but we are a fun group of guys, so it has been good that I can mess around with these guys because it makes workouts a lot easier. No one thing is super weird, but each guy is so different than the next. Each guy has their humor, music, different everything. But it all meshes and we have a good time."On whether they talk a lot about not winning the WCC title:'That is definitely something on their minds. Especially with the coaches. They talk about it every drill we do. If we are struggling on it, or need work on it, they bring up the fact that this is what we need to do if we want to win this conference." On playing basketball growing up: "We moved from Massachusetts to Alpine when I was in fourth grade. Dad's job was in Boston. My family was there for 20 years, then moved here. My parents and three older sisters are BYU graduates. Then my older brother goes here. I am the fifth kid to go to BYU. I have three younger brothers as well."
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