Senior Yoeli Childs has to wait one more game before he can suit up for the Cougars, but he’s still found ways to contribute.
He’s finishing a nine-game suspension, handed down by the NCAA when Childs didn’t file the appropriate paperwork after he decided to withdraw from the NBA draft and return to BYU. During this forced absence, the talented 6-foot-8 forward has been practicing on the Cougars’ scout team.
BYU coach Mark Pope believes having him there has helped the team improve, and is part of the reason the Cougars had a third-place finish at the Maui Invitational.
“Sometimes you feel like you can’t actually get the experience you’re going to get against an opponent because you just don’t have that much talent on your scout team,” Pope said. “We got, probably, a Top-20 player in the country on out scout team. … To have Yoeli to go against every day in practice has been really special for us.”
Pope said Childs has been supportive from the bench and has, in particular, mentored sophomore Kolby Lee.
Last year, Lee averaged 1.4 points, 1.0 rebounds and 0.1 assists through 17 games. So far this season, the sophomore is averaging 9.3 points, 3.6 boards and 1.8 assists.
The 6-foot-9 forward had his best week as a Cougar in Maui, averaging 12 points, 2.7 rebounds and 1.7 assists while shooting 85% from the field.
And Lee wasn’t the only one to shine.
Senior TJ Haws stepped on the gas in the third-place game against Virginia Tech on Wednesday and finished with a season-high 20 points on 7 of 11 shooting from the field and 4 of 7 shooting on 3-pointers.
“I was just getting good looks and fortunately they fell," Haws said. “But we were, or I feel, like our whole team was really in a great rhythm and that momentum and energy is contagious.”
The Cougars only lost to No. 4 Kansas, the eventual tourney winners, on Tuesday, but left the island with two wins.
“What I’m taking away so far is, when we really put our trust in this game plan and the things that we have been working on, we’re a really good team,” Haws said. “And when we move the ball and share the ball and when we guard defensively like we did, we’re a really good team.”
After beating Virginia Tech, Pope said the post-game celebrations probably looked more like the Cougars had won the tourney, instead of coming in third place.
BYU’s players will look to continue to build confidence as they play Montana Tech on Saturday at the Marriott Center. Montana Tech isn’t a Virginia Tech or a Kansas, but the team is balanced and has been shooting the ball well.
“For us to roll out of here claiming third place in a tournament that's just ridiculously stacked and minus what people on paper say is our best player … For us to be able to come here and beat UCLA and Virginia Tech and get a little bit humbled and learn from Kansas is huge for us because our goal is to keep rolling,” Pope said.
And while Childs has been contributing to the team from the bench, Pope can't wait to see what he contributes on the court.
“I’m hopeful that he’s going to have an even bigger impact when he gets to put on that uniform,” Pope said.
MONTANA TECH AT BYU
At Marriott Center, Provo
Tipoff » Saturday, 1 p.m. MT
TV » BYUtv
Radio » BYU Radio – Sirius XM 143/89.1 FM HD2; BYU Sports Network; KSL 102.7 FM/1160 AM
Records » BYU 5-3; Montana Tech 4-3
All-time series » First meeting
About BYU » The team is coming off a third-place finish in the Maui Invitational after claiming wins against UCLA (78-63) and Virginia Tech (90-77), but losing to No. 4 Kansas (71-56). … Sophomore Kolby Lee averaged 12 points, 2.7 rebounds and 1.7 assists while shooting 85% from the field at the Maui Invitational. … While the Cougars have struggled with rebounds, they outrebounded the Bruins and the Hokies.
About Montana Tech » The team is coming off a dominating win against Yellowstone Christian College, 100-45. … The Orediggers scored 50 points in each half on 36 of 74 shooting from the field. … Montana Tech has six players averaging double-digit points. … Sindou Diallo leads the offense, averaging 20.6 points. … Taylor England is averaging 8.9 rebounds per game.