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PROVO — If you had told BYU basketball fans before the 2014-15 season that Nate Austin would prove to be almost indispensable, you might have drawn some laughs. The energetic forward has only averaged over 4 points a game once in his career — his freshman season. As it turns out, though, the Cougars have desperately missed the skinny big man.
Since Austin went down, the Cougars have been slumping with a mediocre 8-5 record. Scoring the ball has not proven to be much of a problem for BYU, and as already mentioned, Austin provides little of that. What he does provide, however, is tough rebounding and low-post defense — two areas where the Cougars have faced severe struggles since Austin went down with an injury prior to the Utah game. In all but one loss since Austin's injury, the Cougars were outrebounded; the discrepancy was especially noteworthy against the Utes and St. Mary's.
The players filling in for Austin, notably Corbin Kaufusi and Luke Worthington, have been inconsistent and not provided nearly the presence Austin has. Perhaps most important, though, about Austin is the energy he provides and the grit he showcases. Despite not being one of the team's stars, it appears that players gravitate towards his leadership, which is something that appears to be missing during the recent nosedive the team has endured in conference play. Here's to hoping for Cougar Nation that Austin comes back as soon as possible.
Dylan Cannon is a regular KSL.com contributor and can be reached at DylanCannon86@gmail.com or via Twitter @DylanCannon11. Listen to his weekly podcast, "Cougar Talk," on iTunes.