Eye on the Y: Nick Emery’s strange BYU basketball career started spectacularly, then fizzled

BYU guard Nick Emery, shown here in a game against Utah Valley in November of 2016, announced Tuesday he is retiring from basketball with one season of eligibility remaining. (Sammy Jo Hester/The Daily Herald via AP)

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Provo • What was supposed to be a slow week for BYU sports-related news was turned on its head Tuesday when rising senior guard Nick Emery made a stunning announcement on Instagram and Twitter that he was retiring from basketball. A news release from BYU followed shortly.

This BYU basketball beat writer was on a cruise ship off the coast of Alaska at the time, so my colleagues Kurt Kragthorpe and Gordon Monson covered the story with a nice recap of Emery’s high and lows in a Cougar uniform and an opinion piece on his tumultuous career and hope for a bright future.

Deseret News columnist Brad Rock weighed in as well.

And so ends one of the strangest college basketball careers in school history. Emery was the rare player whose numbers declined with each passing season; He was a far better player, and put up far better numbers, as a freshman than he did as a sophomore, and then a junior. It was a puzzling development, until we all learned of the many inner battles the former Lone Peak High star faced after his marriage crumbled.

When he was hot — like against San Francisco and Santa Clara on the road as a freshman — he was spectacular to watch. When he wasn’t, it was a painful reminder that a host of personal problems and issues derailed a once-promising college basketball career. And the time he punched Utah’s Brandon Taylor — early in his freshman season — will never be forgotten, either.

His departure means he won’t be in uniform at the Huntsman Center on Dec. 4 when the Utes host BYU for the first time since that sucker punch that eventually led to the series not being played the following season.

BYU sports news will obviously pick up next week with the opening of preseason football training camp on Wednesday, but there are also some former high-profile Cougars and Cougar coaches in action this weekend at The Basketball Tournament at the Maverik Center in West Valley City.

Former coach Dave Rose will coach Team Fredette, even if namesake Jimmer Fredette won’t play this year, due to having signed to play for Panathinaikos B.C. of the EuroLeague. And BYU’s all-time leading scorer, Tyler Haws, will suit up for TF along with former Bowling Green star Jordon Crawford, Rob Gray and Devonta Pollard, among others.

Other BYU sports news

• Head BYU football coach Kalani Sitake spoke at length last month about what he’s learned about recruiting athletes to BYU the past four years.

• BYU receiver Neil Pau’u pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of impaired driving earlier this week.

• The Pac-12 held its media day on Wednesday in Los Angeles, and BYU’s opening game opponent — Utah — is picked to win the conference.

• Meanwhile, at the Mountain West media day in Las Vegas, Utah State was picked to finish second in its division.

• Jim Jimas is probably known by most Utah sports fans for his success as a prep basketball coach at Brighton and Hillcrest, but he was also a fine player himself for BYU back in the day. Jimas passed away earlier this month.

Other Voices

• Brandon Gurney of the Deseret News previewed BYU’s receiving corps for the 2019 season.

• Jeff Call of the Deseret News wrote another article about quarterback Zach Wilson.

• Darnell Dickson of the Provo Daily Herald reported on former BYU basketball star Elijah Bryant’s new deal in Israel.

Around campus

BYU women’s basketball star Shaylee Gonzales suffered a major knee injury during summer workouts according to Sean Walker of KSL.com and will miss the entire 2019-20 season, a tough blow for the rising sophomore guard and for coach Jeff Judkins’ program that won an NCAA Tournament game last spring.

• BYU football players Khyiris Tonga and Brady Christensen were both named to the preseason watch list for the 2019 Outland Trophy. The trophy goes to the nation’s best interior lineman and is presented by the Football Writers of America. Tonga, a 6-foot-4, 325-pounder from Granger High, has played in 26 games as he enters his junior season. He totaled 30 tackles last season with 4.5 tackles for loss and two sacks.

Tonga is also on the preseason watch list for the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, awarded to the nation’s top defensive player.

Christensen, a 6-6, 295-pound offensive lineman from Bountiful, started all 13 games at left tackle last season as a redshirt freshman.

• BYU senior Clayton Young was named the 2019 Men’s Outdoor Track Scholar Athlete of the Year by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Association. The senior mechanical engineering major became the first member of the men’s team to be named USTFCCCA Outdoor Track Scholar Athlete of the Year in program history. The annual award is given to an individual who is accomplished in the classroom and in competition. Young claimed men’s 10,000m national title at the 2019 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships to be the first Cougar to win the event since BYU head coach Ed Eyestone won it back-to-back years in 1984 and 1985.