Ever the jokester, BYU men’s basketball coach Mark Pope answered media members questions about the absence of senior point guard T.J. Haws from practice on Tuesday with news that Haws had surgery and Pope hoped to get him back next year.
Pope admitted he was just playing around with a “you-should-have-seen-your-faces” moment but the way things have gone for the Cougars this offseason, nothing would surprise anybody.
Since last March, Dave Rose retired and Pope was hired to replace him. Yoeli Childs declared for the NBA Draft, changed his mind and decided to come back for his senior year. Then Childs was suspended nine games by the NCAA for a paperwork error. Nick Emery left the program then took shots at the new coaching staff on social media. The Cougars spend ten days in Italy but senior Zac Seljaas broke his foot.
So busy, busy, busy.
In truth, Haws did have a scope done to relieve some knee pain and will miss the first couple of weeks of practice, which officially began on Tuesday. There’s plenty of uncertainty with Childs out the first nine games, Seljaas and Haws on the mend and a lot of new faces on the roster.
Pope was just glad to be back in the gym.
“I’ve spent the last two week straight traveling (on the recruiting trail),” Pope said. “Eight days ago I got a message alert on my phone that said, ‘Congratulations, you have just achieved Diamond Elite status on Delta.’ It was one of the most depressing moments of my life, like ‘What am I doing with my life?’ So for me personally, it was so fun to be in the gym. These guys are such good young men and they enjoy this game so much.
“We’re finishing our second practice of two-a-days and we’re trying to shut them down and they’re yelling at me because they want to go another couple of reps, and that’s pretty great.”
The players share Pope’s enthusiasm for getting back to work.
“Everyone was really excited today,” BYU senior Dalton Nixon said. “There was a lot of energy. Coach likes to say there’s a lot of juice in the gym. Something we really were looking forward to on the first day of practice is to have the energy on both sides of the floor. We have an opportunity to put together what we want to accomplish this year and it started today.”
Pope said there hasn’t been a final decision from the NCAA about the availability of Utah Valley transfers Wyatt Lowell and Richard Hardward or Arizona transfer Alex Barcello for this season. Pope said he expects to get “positive answers back.”
Seljaas spent his first day on the treadmill in the pool, part of his recovery process that Pope said is going well.
“He’s worked so hard with his fitness,” Pope said. “Coach Schork (Erick Schork, BYU’s strength and conditioning coach) has him boxing on a chair. Zac has become the poster boys for Abs of Steel because that’s all he can do right now. Coach Schork sends me videos of Zac in the pool every day. He’s not drowning as much as he was two weeks ago.
“We rushed him (Seljaas) back from Italy five days early because the timing was so tight in the estimate of him being full recovered to get him back for Game 1. We’ll see how it goes.”
Pope had Haws coach segments of practice during both the morning and afternoon sessions and said sophomore Connor Harding and junior college transfer Blaze Nield are both getting extra reps at the point guard spot.
The Cougars will be immersed in practice until October 23 when “Midnight Madness” becomes a part of BYU basketball, followed by an exhibition game against UT-Tyler on Nov. 1. The Cougars open the 2019-20 campaign at home against Cal-State Fullerton on Nov. 5.