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Provo • New BYU basketball coach Mark Pope told reporters in a surprise news briefing on Tuesday that senior guard Nick Emery is going to have an outstanding senior season. So much for wild internet speculation that Emery’s final season of college basketball would not be played in Provo.
Unless something drastic happens between now and the middle of August when the Cougars go on their NCAA-allowed team trip overseas (to Italy), Emery will finish his turbulent career wearing BYU blue, it appears.
“I think we are in a really good spot right now [with Emery],” Pope said in response to my question on Emery’s status in the program. “He has got a renewed focus. I think that seniors have extraordinary things inside them that are founded on the struggles you go through over a four-year career, the ups and downs and the sideways and the all-arounds.”
Of course, Emery missed the first nine games of his junior year as punishment from the NCAA for accepting improper benefits from four boosters, and never really duplicated his first two seasons when he was close to being an all-league performer. When coach Dave Rose announced his retirement in April, many felt that Emery — who Rose had supported despite all the problems and negative press that the former Lone Peak star had brought to the program — would leave as well.
Didn’t happen. But it wasn’t all rosy, either, Pope explained.
“I will be really honest with you,” Pope said. “The first time I walked into the locker room, most of the guys were looking at me pretty sideways. And we were really honest with each other. … I told them you guys are in the unfortunate position of not having chosen the coach that is here now. You didn’t come here and choose to play for me. We will have to figure this out together. … I think Nick will tell you that, too. He was looking at me sideways. But you would have to ask him."
Pope said he’s seen seniors “rise up and do spectacular things in really big moments” and he expects Emery and fellow seniors Zac Seljaas, TJ Haws, Dalton Nixon and Jake Toolson to continue that tradition.
“That’s my expectation for Nick, and I think that’s what he expects of himself, and I just can’t wait to see it,” Pope said. “You don’t know when it is going to happen, or how the storyline is going to go, but when it happens we will all be in a room together after a game and we will go, yup, that’s how it was supposed to go. I am excited for him. He’s in a good place. He’s really focused right now and excited to move forward.”
Speaking of Toolson, I caught up with the UVU transfer who is returning to BYU and filed this report.
Here’s my report when Yoeli Childs announced he was returning, and here’s my colleague Chris Kamrani’s story from Childs’ news conference the next day, while I was out of town on vacation.
In other BYU sports-related news the past week, only one Cougar — shortstop Jackson Cluff — was picked in the 40-round Major League baseball draft, although three signees heard their names called and will have to decide whether to sign with a professional team or start their college careers at BYU.
The Cougars got plenty of publicity at the NCAA Track and Field Championships because they qualified an NCAA-record six runners in the men’s 10,000 meters, then delivered on the hype when Clayton Young won the national championship in the event and two other BYU runners finished third and fourth.
On the football front, BYU football coach Kalani Sitake addressed the mild trash-talking that has gone on between his guys and Utah football players on Twitter. Sitake was at Hidden Valley Country Club in Sandy on Monday to team up with Utah coach Kyle Whittingham in an event to benefit the National Kidney Foundation of Utah and Idaho.
• Jody Gennesy of the Deseret News covered Yoeli Childs’ news conference and noticed the BYU star and new coach have already developed a strong bond.
• Doug Robinson of the Deseret News detailed how BYU’s women’s track team broke several school records this season.
The West Coast Conference announced basketball opponents last week. BYU won’t host Pacific and won’t travel to Santa Clara. Pope’s reaction:
“It just is what it is,” he said. “I could spend a lot of time consternating over that, but nobody is going to listen to me at this point. I think the schedule is going to be really exciting and great, and we gotta find a way to go win games. And so, I think it is a really interesting approach to scheduling. And, we will see.”
• BYU reliever Reid McLauglin has been named a freshman All-American by Collegiate Baseball. McLaughlin, from Desert Mountain High School in Scottsdale, Ariz., posted a 7-1 record with four saves in 25 appearances. He had an ERA of 2.61 in 51.2 innings pitched.
• Off the track, a couple Cougars were honored for their performance in the classroom this week. Junior Erica Birk-Jarvis (steeplechase) and sophomore Matt Owens (steeplechase) were named to the Google Cloud Academic All-District 8 teams.
• On the gridiron, television partners ESPN and BYUtv announced broadcast plans and kickoff times for four games on the Cougars’ schedule in 2019.
The BYU-Utah game on Aug. 29 will kick off at 8:15 p.m. and be televised by ESPN.
The BYU at Tennesse game on Sept. 7 will kick off at 5 p.m. MT and will be televised by ESPN.
The USC at BYU game on Sept. 14 will begin at 1:30 p.m. MT and will be televised nationally on ABC, ESPN or ESPN2.
BYU’s game against Idaho State on Nov. 16 will be televised by BYUtv and will begin at 1 p.m.