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BYU basketball’s fourth-year walk-on Evan Troy is the team’s motor — from the bench

(Rick Egan | Tribune file photo) Brigham Young Cougars guard Evan Troy (21) takes the ball to the basket against Texas Southern Tigers at the Marriott Center in Provo, Saturday, Dec. 23, 2017.

Provo • Although not a starter, Evan Troy is in the spotlight at the start of each BYU game when the starting lineup gets announced. The senior stands at the end of the line ready with a personalized handshake or jig with each of the starting players.

Troy serves as the glue that helps the team work so well together, yet, most surprisingly, he's a fourth-year walk-on for the Cougars. And he almost didn't play for BYU at all.

Coach Mark Pope doesn’t believe it’s that common for a player to stick around a program as a walk-on, especially for four seasons, but said Troy has “been a gift for [the] team.”

Troy, a graduate of Mark Morris High School in Longview, Wash., was at a summer camp when a former BYU staff member encouraged him to come to Provo to try out for a walk-on spot. At first, Troy wasn't interested.

But then he started thinking about how both of his parents were BYU alums — his dad wrestled in college and his mother was a walk-on for the women’s basketball team.

“I don't know, it was just within the cards and felt right at the time,” Troy said. “Especially, after meeting the guys, I knew this was the place for me.”

And it was that connection with his team that kept Troy on the BYU squad, rather than opting to look for another program that could offer a scholarship or more playing time — or quitting all-together.

When Troy first joined the Cougars, he didn't play much. Or at all.

As a freshman, Troy didn’t get off the bench. The next year he played a total of 18 minutes and then 24 minutes throughout his junior season.

But even though he wasn't seeing much game-time action, he continued helping the team as much as he could elsewhere.

“I would say my teammates are my biggest motivators,” Troy said. “Just coming in, they accepted me. They treated me like family. So, it's only right that I give them the same effort back.”

This season, Troy has already played a total of 42 minutes, and has scored five points and brought down seven rebounds.

Being able to contribute in those early games this season has brought Troy a new sense of motivation. Being part of the scout team and helping out wherever he could seemed to pay off.

“Those other years, I was just doing it for my brothers and fighting every day in practice to make them better and make us more complete as a unit,” Troy said.

After the close win over Oral Roberts to close out the nonconference schedule, Yoeli Childs said it will come down to players like Troy and Zac Seljaas to get the wins when needed, even if their contributions don't add up on a stats sheet.

Pope describes Troy as a very good basketball player with a really high IQ of the game. Troy’s length is longer than a lot of the other guys in the backcourt and has a really good defensive feel.

Plus, he can shoot the ball.

Even in his limited playing time, Troy is shooting 66.7% over and 50% from the 3-point line.

He has skills. More importantly, he has the right mentality.

“He's tough; he talks back to our guys and kind of gets them riled up,” Pope said. “And he's an unbelievable connecter in our locker room. So, he's a star. I think all of that. The fact that he can touch all of those buttons, that he can reach every single guy, is probably the best thing he does.”

The idea of having a special handshake with each of the starters was actually inspired by former Cougar Payton Dastrup. When Troy was a freshman, he saw Dastrup fire up the players as the game started.

But after Dastrup left, no one filled in the void — until Troy took it upon himself.

A lot of the handshakes are inside jokes between the team — or just between Troy and a specific player.

“I’ve always kind of been that glue guy — the one that’s cool with everybody,” “So, I would be the guy that does the handshakes and gets everybody going.”

After this season, someone else will need to take over the pre-game ritual.

BYU VS SAN DIEGO

At the Marriott Center, Provo


Tipoff » Thursday, 7 p.m. MT

TV » BYUtv

Radio » 1160 AM, 102.7 FM, Sirius XM 143

Records » BYU 13-5 (2-1); USD 7-12 (0-4)

All-time series » BYU leads 16-6

Last meeting » USD 80, BYU 57 (Mar. 9, 2019)

About BYU » Seniors TJ Haws and Dalton Nixon both posted their first career double-doubles in BYU’s 96-70 win over Portland. … Nixon had 14 points and a career-best 11 rebounds while Haws totaled 13 points and a career-best 14 assists. … Haws also tied the record for most assists without a turnover in BYU history.

About USD » The Torreros have dropped their first four WCC games and has never won in nine previous tries at BYU. … Off the bench, sophomore Finn Sullivan had a career-best game against Pepperdine last Saturday, scoring a personal-best 25 points, five assists, three rebounds and a steal in 27 minutes. … Sullivan became only the second Torero in the last 10 years to have 25+ points and 5+ assists in a single game.

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