Provo • BYU basketball star Yoeli Childs said at last week’s West Coast Conference men’s basketball tipoff event in Las Vegas that he wishes the Cougars could play three or four times a week.
For now, the 6-foot-8 junior forward will have to settle for one contest every seven days or so. But that’s better than nothing, especially for a team that is “sick of playing against each other,” according to Childs.
The Cougars will open their two-game exhibition season Wednesday night against Saint Martin’s University at the Marriott Center. Tipoff is at 7 p.m. and the game will be televised by BYUtv. Next week, BYU will host Salt Lake City’s Westminster College in another exhibition before starting the 2018-19 season on the road Nov. 6 at No. 7-ranked Nevada.
“We are sick of doing the same things every day against the same guys,” Childs said. “You know all their moves and they know all your moves. But elite teams can push through that and continue to practice hard and continue to get better every day. That has been our biggest emphasis, is taking everything one day at a time. Guys have been working their butts off and getting better.”
Tuesday, BYU coach Dave Rose announced that senior Luke Worthington and junior TJ Haws will be team captains for the 2018-19 season. They were selected by a vote of their teammates. Rose said he opted for two exhibition games, rather than one and a closed scrimmage, as some teams do, to give his younger players a feel for a game atmosphere.
“I like getting our guys, especially the new guys, out here feeling the gym and feeling the crowd, and feeling the lights,” he said. “I think it is a good start to preparing us for two weeks from today [against Nevada]."
One of those new players won’t be available, however. Freshman forward Kolby Lee is still sidelined with the foot injury that kept him out of last week’s instrasquad game. Rose said Lee is scheduled to see another doctor Wednesday morning.
“I feel for him, because he has put in a lot of time, had a really good summer, got his body right,” Rose said. “We need big guys. We are kinda size-challenged anyway, so hopefully we can get some good news on Kolby.”
Childs scored a game-high 35 points in the intrasquad game last Friday, while Jahshire Hardnett and Worthington added 18 points apiece and Haws chipped in 16.
Freshman returned missionary Connor Harding scored just five points in 31 minutes, but Childs said in Las Vegas that the Pocatello, Idaho, product has impressed his teammates in practices.
“Connor has actually improved a ton,” Childs said. “Every week, every practice, it seems like he is getting better and better. He is getting more confident.”
Childs said all the young guys have been “looking great,” including freshman Gavin Baxter, who had three points in the Cougar Tipoff.
Junior Dalton Nixon missed 12 games due to injury last season, including the NIT loss to Stanford because he was recovering from shoulder surgery. Childs andRose said Nixon has picked up where he left off.
“Dalton has been finishing everything, and shooting the ball really well,” Childs said. “Everyone has been shooting well, so it is exciting.”
Payton Dastrup’s transfer to Oregon State “kind of left us a guy short” inside and necessitated Nixon’s quick return, Rose said. Tuesday, the NCAA denied Dastrup’s appeal to waive its transfer rule for undisclosed hardship reasons, so the big guy must sit out this season.
Usually, exhibition games are easy, but Saint Martin’s will present a significant challenge, Rose said. An NCAA Division II school, SMU went 25-8 overall last season and 15-5 in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference. Four of its five top scorers from last season return, most notably senior guard Luke Chavez (16.0 ppg.), the GNAC preseason player of the year.
Wednesday’s exhibition game
At the Marriott Center, Provo
Saint Martin’s University at BYU, 7 p.m.