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A huge theme for the Cougar basketball team will be depth as they get set to open the season. Replacing ironman Lee Cummard will be no easy task. Coach Dave Rose has consistently said that it is impossible to replace a player like Cummard, and that they will simply have to learn how to play without him. Here's a look at what to expect from the Cougars this year.
Four returning starters
The Cougars start what may prove to be one of the most lethal backcourts in the country with juniors Jimmer Fredette and Jackson Emery. Fredette, the preseason MWC player of the year, is a crafty point guard who has emerged as an extremely effective playmaker, both in creating his own shot and creating for his teammates. Fredette averaged just over 16 points as a sophomore to go along with four assists.
Emery is more of a blue-collar player who is known for his relentless hustle and athletic ability. Rose mentioned Emery, one of the captains this year, as one of the two most improved players on the team. He has looked very solid in practice thus far.
Two very experienced seniors anchor the returning front line. Chris Miles returns as one of the more seasoned big men in the MWC. While the Cougars need much more production offensively from him this season, Miles has proven to be a tough defender when he can stay out of foul trouble.
Jonathan Tavernari has been a scorer since he arrived on campus his freshman year. He set the BYU single season record for three-pointers made in a season. Although he is an excellent perimeter shooter, Rose likes to play him at the power forward position to create mismatches for the opposing team defensively. Tavernari was also the leading rebounder on the team last year. At times Tavernari, the only non-professional member of the Brazilian national team, has been too quick to pull the trigger, but when his shot is falling he can be as deadly as anyone in the conference.
Other key returning players
Overall, the Cougars return nine players who have at least a full season of game experience and played significant minutes. These players, who came off the bench, will fill extremely important roles in Rose's up-tempo system.
Charles Abouo spent the off season playing for the Ivory Coast national team. Abouo returns in excellent shape, and Noah Hartsock's recent ankle injury may have helped Abouo lock down the remaining spot in the starting lineup. Abouo's physical presence was an asset on defense last season, and he has shown a much improved offensive game during early practices.
Senior guard Lamont Morgan, Jr. was the primary backup point guard last season, and played in all 33 games for the Cougars. His challenge will be to run the offense without much of a drop-off when Fredette goes to the bench.
The Cougars welcomed two true freshmen to camp last month in Tyler Haws and Brandon Davies. Haws, a 6-foot-5 swingman from Lone Peak High School in Alpine, Utah, was the state's Mr. Basketball last year. He has battled a sore knee early on, and how quickly he bounces back may determine if he uses a redshirt year of eligibility this season. Davies is a raw athlete, and at 6-9, has worlds of potential to develop as a big man. His driving dunk in the Cougar Tipoff was the best play of the night by a big man. He should add much-needed depth to the front court.
The Cougars have two opportunities to work out any kinks in their game before they open the season against Bradley University at home Nov. 13. Their first test comes tonight at 7:00 in the Marriott Center against Trinity Western, a team from Langley, British Columbia, which defeated Utah Valley University 77-58 Tuesday night.