Provo • Elijah Bryant is playing professional basketball in Israel and Payton Dastrup is enthusiastically cheering on his Oregon State teammates from the sidelines.
Meanwhile, the Cougars sorely miss those two departed players, especially when it comes to putting a reliable third scorer on the floor with stars Yoeli Childs and TJ Haws.
“Well, I think that there are guys that feel a lot of pressure on the team to be that guy,” coach Dave Rose said Tuesday. “I just hope that we can find one that can consistently contribute and help us. I believe that a lot of what Yoeli and TJ are doing as far as their consistent offensive nights can really free up another two, maybe three guys, if we can find that. That can help us. Am I concerned? I would say yes.”
Having defeated Portland and Santa Clara last weekend to improve to 3-1 in West Coast Conference play, the Cougars (11-8 overall) head back out on the road this week to face Pepperdine on Thursday and San Francisco on Saturday. It doesn’t appear that the team’s third-leading scorer, troubled junior guard Jahshire Hardnett, will play.
Hardnett, who averages 10.9 points, remains sidelined with a hand injury and has not practiced yet this week. He missed both games last week with the injury.
“He will see another specialist tomorrow and hopefully we will get a timeline, and we will get some more specific qualifications that need to be met in order for him to get back,” Rose said. “He’s champing at the bit, wants to get back out and play. But it is really sore.”
Rose said that Hardnett played with a broken finger last year and is tough enough to play through the pain and soreness if he’s cleared by doctors.
“Hopefully we can get to a point where, if that is the recommendation, that we can go that way,” Rose said.
Senior McKay Cannon has started the last four games in Hardnett’s customary position and had 11 points in the 79-56 win over Portland, but the walk-on hasn’t proved to be a consistent scorer in his two seasons in Provo.
The obvious candidate is Nick Emery, but the junior has yet to find the offensive rhythm he displayed in his first two seasons in the program before taking last season off. Emery seemed to be breaking out of his funk with a 13-point effort on Jan. 5 at Saint Mary’s, then scored just six points in nearly 38 minutes combined against the Pilots and Broncos.
“We have had a lot of conversations, and I think Nick’s mindset coming in was to just find ways to help the team,” Rose said. “I think he has really taken that more on the defensive end. And I don’t really think that the pressure for him to score is what he really needs personally.”
Rose said the coaches won’t ask Emery to score more, after he rejoined the team 10 games ago. He is averaging just 5.8 points per game.
“Let’s just see how it develops and how it comes,” Rose said. “Losing Jahshire [has hurt]. Jahshire is a guy who has had some big offensive games for us, but his consistent offensive game during that five-game road swing was challenging for him to be consistent every night.”
The coach said Zac Seljaas (7.4 ppg.) is capable of being that third double-digit scorer, and sophomore guard Rylan Bergersen is emerging as well.
Freshman guard Connor Harding has hit a 3-pointer in nine of his last 10 games after making his first collegiate start, against Utah, and has also shown flashes of high-scoring potential.
“Later on in the season, teams are really going to focus on Yoeli and TJ and they are going to say the other guys are going to have to beat [them]. So somebody is going to have to step up and I would love to do that.”
Meanwhile, Childs and Haws have combined to average 39.4 points per game on a team that averages 83.3. Childs is the WCC Player of the Week after averaging 27.5 points and 9.0 rebounds last week.
He made 5 of 9 3-pointers and shot 60 percent from the field and 82.4 percent from the free-throw line. The junior is 17th in the nation in scoring, 17th in rebounding and second in double-doubles, with 11. He has scored 20 or more points in 12 games.
BYU at Pepperdine, 9 p.m. MST