In the middle of that horrible start the BYU basketball team got off to last week against UTEP, coach Dave Rose turned to sophomore forward Stephen Rogers on the bench and told the junior college transfer that his time had come.
"Now's your chance," Rose shouted as Rogers ripped off his warm-ups and headed to the scorer's table.
A few minutes later, Rogers had gone 5-for-5 from the free-throw line and grabbed a couple big defensive rebounds. The Cougars were ahead 39-26 at halftime and Rose was patting Rogers on the back as they strolled to the locker room.
BYU's instant offense, it's hoped-for replacement off the bench for Jonathan Tavernari, had arrived.
The No. 16 Cougars (12-1) are hoping for more of the same Thursday night when they take on 7-3 Buffalo (5 p.m. MST, no TV) in their next-to-last nonconference game before the Mountain West Conference battles begin next week.
"I think [Rogers] is coming along really well," Rose said. "I was really pleased the other night when he got in the game in a half where we were having a hard time scoring."
Billed as a high-scoring sharpshooter when the Cougars beat Utah State, New Mexico, UC Santa Barbara and others for his services out of Mesa (Ariz.) Community College, Rogers started his first season in Provo off slowly. He was 0-for-7 from three-point range in his first six games, then seemingly bottomed out on Dec. 1 at Creighton when Rose elected not to play him at all.
However, Rogers rebounded with a career-high, 13-point effort against Hawaii, which included a 3-for-4 performance from three-point range, and has started to show why so many schools wanted the junior college All-American last spring.
"At the beginning of the season, 0-for-7 wasn't what I was looking for, obviously," Rogers said. "But the coaching staff was great in telling me to just keep shooting. Ever since then, my shots have been falling."
Rogers signed with Arizona State out of high school, then redshirted at ASU before going on an LDS Church mission to Cleveland. He averaged 21.3 ppg. last season at Mesa CC. He got engaged to be married the day before the UTEP game to Ginny Zaccardi, whom he met at Mesa. The couple will marry in April.
"Things are going well," he said. "I am enjoying it here in Provo, and am finally getting back to the rhythm I knew I could get in."
Rose said coming off the bench has been an adjustment for Rogers, who's been a starter since his sophomore year at Mesa's Mountain View High.
"We are trying to just encourage him to have confidence and to be ready when it is his turn. It is a tough role to be in right now, because his minutes are kind of determined by how the other team plays us, and what they are doing with ball screens and different stuff," Rose said. "But I am pleased with him, and I think he will continue to improve."
Rogers said his redshirt year at ASU helped him realize what Division I basketball would be like, so he knew what he was getting into this season. He also knows that his role is different than in junior college because the Cougars have two prolific scorers from the outside in Jimmer Fredette and Jackson Emery.
"During every timeout, every breather we get, coach [Dave] Rice and coach Rose keep encouraging me and telling me to shoot the ball," he said. "They brought me in here to shoot, and they are more than confident in my ability. That makes me feel good."
BYU's Stephen Rogers
Min FG 3FG PPG RPG
First six games 9.8 3-13 0-7 2.0 2.6
Last six games 12.1 8-15 6-10 5.0 2.1
Note • Rogers did not play in seventh game, vs. Creighton
No. 16 BYU at Buffalo