Provo • BYU basketball coach Dave Rose could have a quandary on his hands this offseason.
BYU’s program faces a possible scholarship crunch with no seniors on the 2017-18 roster, meaning no scheduled departures.
If all 12 scholarship players return and Nick Emery rejoins the team after withdrawing from school last fall in the midst of an NCAA investigation into improper benefits and some personal issues he has detailed in blogs, the Cougars would be two over the NCAA-allotted 13 scholarships because Timpview’s Gavin Baxter returns from his church mission in May and Connor Harding of Pocatello, Idaho, returns in June.
BYU coaches learned the hard way the past few years that assuming that every player will return is not wise in the age of wide-scale transferring and turning professional early.
That’s probably why assistant coach Quincy Lewis said Thursday that program improvement, and not the roster logjam, is the chief offseason goal.
“It starts with coach Rose talking to the guys we have here, and then obviously we need to see what happens with Nick,” Lewis said. “So yes, there are some things that need to be sorted out this spring. But I don’t see that as being a big issue right now. I think it will work itself out.”
Regarding Emery, who has said that he plans on returning, Lewis said the guard he coached at Lone Peak High should see “more progress one way or the other” concerning his situation in the next couple of weeks.
“It is ongoing right now,” Lewis said. “The No. 1 thing is we want the best for Nick, whatever that is going to be. Certainly we would love to have Nick back here.”
Rose has waited in the past until after the coaches’ annual trip to the Final Four to sit down individually with each player to discuss his future. But he already did that earlier this week, an indication coaches want to get the roster and scholarship dilemma figured out as quickly as possible.
Assistant coach Heath Schroyer left to take the coaching job at McNeese State a day after the season ended, and Lewis and fellow assistant Tim LaComb have been on the recruiting trail. LaComb has been at the junior college national championship tournament in Hutchinson, Kan.
As for replacing Schroyer, “we are probably looking at a 6- to 8-week deal before anything happens,” Lewis said, noting that BYU’s hiring process “is a little bit longer than other schools” because of the need for ecclesiastical endorsement. Graduate assistant Lee Cummard is the obvious choice if Rose wants to play it safe and promote from within.
Will any players turn pro? Star forward Eric Mika did last spring in a move that later was called “unexpected” by Rose and one of the “curveballs that came out of nowhere,” coupled with Emery’s withdrawal.
Sophomore forward Yoeli Childs told The Salt Lake Tribune he might test the NBA Draft waters, and fellow star Elijah Bryant also is expected to put his name in with the option of withdrawing it at a later date and retaining his final year of college eligibility. Bryant will graduate this spring and might not be more marketable than he is right now after a sensational second season in Provo.
“Coach Rose has talked to both of them,” Lewis said. “I haven’t talked to him specifically about what happened in those conversations, but obviously both of them had outstanding seasons, and as they should, they are looking to see what their best options are at this point. We will see what direction both of them take.”
Will any players transfer?
Point guard Jahshire Hardnett said he plans to return, despite mentioning a few times over the course of the season that the offensive system Rose and Schroyer ran doesn’t fit his preferred role and playing style. Fellow rising juniors TJ Haws and Zac Seljaas didn’t have the kind of sophomore seasons they were expected to have, especially offensively, but their concerns might have been alleviated when Schroyer moved on.
Highly recruited forward Payton Dastrup probably could have been used better as well, and his lack of playing time was a season-long mystery that Rose never fully addressed.
Lewis said coaches no longer can take anything for granted when it comes to assuming every player will return.
“With any school at this point, you have to protect yourself for any situation,” he said. “It is just different now, as we have seen in the last couple of years. We will see what happens this year with our team, but you have to be prepared for anything.”
BYU’S POTENTIALLY CROWDED ROSTER IN 2018-19
Seniors • Elijah Bryant, Luke Worthington
Juniors • TJ Haws, Jahshire Hardnett, Yoeli Childs, Zac Seljaas, Payton Dastrup, Dalton Nixon, Braiden Shaw, Nick Emery
Sophomores • Rylan Bergersen, Ryan Andrus
Freshmen • Gavin Baxter, Connor Harding, Kolby Lee
McKay Cannon (senior) and Evan Troy (junior)
Note: Shaw and Andrus were injured in 2017-18 and are expected to receive medical redshirts; Lee was not scheduled to return from a church mission until 2019 and might not be assured of a scholarship next season.