Provo • It is easy to shop for birthday and Christmas presents for BYU guard Rylan Bergersen.
“Basketball shorts, basketball shoes, a book about basketball, basketball video games — you get him something to do with basketball, and you know he’s going to be happy,” said his father, former professional basketball player Roberto Bergersen, a second-round draft pick of the Atlanta Hawks in the 1999 NBA draft.
The 6-foot-6 sophomore who is gradually seeing more playing time for the Cougars (3-1, 11-8) can’t help it. He attended his first basketball game — at Boise State, where his father carved out a Hall of Fame career — before he was a week old and spent years of his childhood traveling around the world as Roberto Bergersen played professionally in France, Belgium, Italy, Turkey and Spain and for the Idaho Stampede of the NBA Development League.
“Basketball is in my blood, for sure,” Rylan said.
His former roommate, BYU star Yoeli Childs, says he hasn’t met many people who love the sport more than Bergersen, who spent a season at a prep school (Link Year) in Branson, Mo., after graduating from Boise’s Borah High.
“The guy just loves the game,” Childs said. “It is all about basketball for Ry, all the time.”
Coming off two of his better games as a Cougar, wins over Portland and Santa Clara, Bergersen hopes his minutes will only increase as BYU embarks on a two-game road swing Thursday at Pepperdine and Saturday at San Francisco.
“The season is starting to go well for me,” Bergersen said. “I am just getting a little more time each game and trying to do what I can with the minutes I get.”
Bergersen is averaging just 2.5 points in 8.8 minutes per game, but he generally shines when he gets the opportunity to play. He drilled a step-back 3-pointer just before halftime against Portland to give the Cougars a 36-30 lead at the break, a momentum-swinging shot that coach Dave Rose says spurred the Cougars to a 79-56 win.
“I believe in these guys,” Rose said of Bergersen and other reserves. “I think that we will find two or three guys [who haven’t been playing a lot] that will give us consistent minutes and give us consistent play. I think it will really improve our team.”
Rylan and Roberto, who still resides in Boise and is the director of a local all-star traveling basketball team, talk almost every day.
“Rylan is a little bit of a basketball head, a basketball junkie,” Roberto said. “He watches basketball, he reads about basketball, he plays video games about basketball. He has other interests, like movies, music and girls. But he just loves basketball. So a lot of the stuff I tell him, he’s already figured out.”
Roberto’s advice to his son is to stay the course, maintain his positive attitude, and be the best teammate he can be.
“I would like to see him be more active and more in an attack mode,” he said. “He can affect a game in so many different ways. … For him, just being more urgent, being more active, and doing that consistently will help him get more minutes. That’s the general idea.”
Teammates say Bergersen is one of the most positive players on the team.
“Rylan is a great teammate,” said freshman guard Connor Harding. “He is kind of quiet and [keeps] to himself. But he gets the job done. In practice, he has really picked it up offensively and defensively.”
Rylan Bergersen said he was a late bloomer and his recruitment in high school wasn’t what he wanted, so he took the prep school route. He averaged 18 points a game at Link Year, where he drew BYU’s attention.
It was a “little bit strange” to him when the school owned and operated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints started recruiting him, he said, but he bought in quickly.
“Growing up, I never thought about coming here because it was an LDS school, stuff like that,” he said. “But it felt like it was a good fit, and the church thing really didn’t matter because I have been around a lot of LDS people in my life. Provo isn’t that much different than Boise.”
And basketball is life — for a young man who wouldn’t have it any other way.
BYU AT PEPPERDINE
At Firestone Fieldhouse, Malibu, Calif.
Tipoff • Thursday, 9 p.m. MST
TV • ESPN2
Radio • KSL 1160 AM, 102.7 FM
Records • BYU 3-1, 11-8; Pepperdine 2-2, 9-9
Series history • BYU leads, 13-9
Last meeting • BYU 75, Pepperdine 70 (Feb. 15, 2018)
About the Waves • They defeated BYU four straight times in Malibu before the Cougars knocked them off last year in overtime at Firestone Fieldhouse. … They are led in scoring by sophomore guard Colbey Ross (19.0 ppg.) and in rebounding by Kameron Edwards (6.5 rpg.). Edwards also averages 16.1 points per game. … Coach Lorenzo Romar is back for his second stint at the school, having also coached there from 1996 to 1999. … They are averaging 77.9 points per game and allowing 73.6 points per game.
About the Cougars • They are trying to win their third-straight game for the first time since knocking off Utah State, Utah and Portland State in early December. … Junior G Jahshire Hardnett will make the trip, but is doubtful to play due to an injured left hand. … Junior F Yoeli Childs, the reigning WCC Player of the Week, is 17th in the nation in scoring with a 22.3 average and 17th in rebounding at 10.2 rebounds per game. … They are averaging 83.3 points per game and allowing 78.3 points per game.