BYU will open against UCLA at the Maui Invitational; Lee Cummard to join BYU women’s coaching staff

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) New BYU basketball coach Mark Pope, shown here at his introductory news conference on Apr. 10, 2019, is excited to face UCLA and then, possibly, Kansas at the Maui Invitational in November.

Provo • New BYU basketball coach Mark Pope promised a more difficult non-conference schedule when he replaced Dave Rose a few months ago.

Facing UCLA and then, possibly, Kansas in the Maui Jim Maui Invitational in November certainly fits that description, although Rose set up the Cougars’ entrance into one of the country’s most prestigious early season tournaments years ago.

Pope’s Cougars will face UCLA and new Bruins coach Mick Cronin on Nov. 25 at 9:30 p.m. MST on ESPN2 in the opening game of the 36th annual event at the Lahaina Civic Center on the island of Maui. The BYU-UCLA winner will meet the Kansas-Chaminade winner on Nov. 26.

The teams on the other side of the bracket are Michigan State, Virginia Tech, Dayton and Georgia.

“It’s a great schedule — an unbelievable schedule,” Pope said on May 16. “It is going to be fun.”

Virginia Tech will also have a new coach, having hired Mike Young from Wofford.

Combined, the teams in the Maui Invitational have 16 national championships and 44 Final Four appearances.

“You guys know that I am a sucker for blue bloods,” Pope said, noting that he traveled to Duke and Kentucky as UVU’s head coach. “I am excited to see if we can get some blue bloods [into the Marriott Center]. I still don’t know yet how impossible that is, but I am dumb enough to want to do it.”

Playing them in Hawaii isn’t a bad way to go, either.

UCLA leads its series with BYU 11-10, and won 86-79 in its last matchup with the Cougars. BYU will be making its fourth appearance in the tournament.

In other BYU basketball-related news this week:

• Former BYU star and men’s basketball assistant coach Lee Cummard is returning to the Marriott Center Annex offices, but this time with the women’s program. Head coach Jeff Judkins announced Thursday that he has hired Cummard and Melanie Pearson Day to replace some assistant coaches who went to UVU.

“I am really excited to have Melanie and Lee as assistant coaches,” Judkins said. “Both were great players and both will work hard to help our program continue to be successful.”

Day played three seasons at UCLA and one at BYU. She was on BYU’s Sweet 16 team in 2001-02 and was an assistant coach at UNLV from 2004-07.

Cummard was a graduate assistant for two years under Rose before replacing Heath Schroyer on the bench prior to the 2018-19 season.

“Lee is making a similar adjustment to what I did in transitioning from coaching the men to the women,” Judkins said. “He will be a great teacher for our players.”

• BYU has received the Team Academic Excellence Award for the third-straight season from the National Association of Basketball Coaches. Teams must have a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or better.

• Jimmer Fredette has left his NBA Summer League team, the Golden State Warriors, and will reportedly sign to play for a team in Greece. Meanwhile, former Cougars Elijah Bryant and Eric Mika have had some good moments in the games in Las Vegas.

Bryant is on the Milwaukee Bucks’ entry, while Mika is playing with the Sacramento Kings.

Mika had 13 points on 6 of 9 shooting and 14 rebounds in a recent game against Miami, while Bryant turned heads with a 31-point, seven-rebound performance in 25 minutes against Minnesota.