Nick Emery, T.J. Haws and Eric Mika last played together in 2013, when they led Lone Peak High School to a prep national championship.
This season, they’ll reunite in Provo, Utah, in hopes of leading the BYU Cougars back to the NCAA Tournament. More importantly, the trio will have two more years after this one to make a mark on the program, something that is almost unheard of at BYU.
For a program that constantly deals with roster turnover because of the missionary program of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, it’s an era of stability that is welcomed by head coach Dave Rose.
In today’s world of college basketball, every team must deal with roster turnover. One-and-done prospects and graduate transfers are no longer the exception; they’re the norm.
Rose is in a unique situation. The mission program means players go away for a season, then return, so Rose must not only plan on filling a player’s role for that season, but also make sure he has an open spot for the player when he returns. To make matters worse, the player can go on his mission at any time–some go before joining the program, while others go during their collegiate careers.
That’s why Rose is excited at the prospect of having Emery, Haws and Mika together for three full seasons. The trio is already familiar playing together, and each one brings something different to the table to help the team.
Emery, a guard, burst onto the scene last season as a freshman, making the All-West Coast Conference Freshman Team and averaging 16.3 points per game. He set freshman records for points in a single game (37 points against San Francisco) and three-pointers in a single game (10, also against San Francisco).
This season, he’ll be expected to put up those type of scoring numbers again in BYU’s high-scoring offense. He’s aggressive and confident on the offensive end, and is more than capable of becoming BYU’s primary scoring option.
Joining Emery in the starting backcourt will likely be Haws, the brother of Tyler Haws, BYU’s all-time scoring leader. T.J. has many of the same traits as Tyler, but unlike Tyler, he has already gone on his mission and is just now enrolling, meaning he will have four uninterrupted seasons to play for the Cougars.
The third member of the trio, Mika, is returning from his mission. The forward provides BYU with an inside presence it has often lacked in Rose’s tenure.
Mika was named to the All-WCC Freshman Team two seasons ago, averaging 11.8 points and 6.4 rebounds per game. He’s a tenacious offensive rebounder–he broke the school record for offensive rebounds in a season with 93 as a freshman–and led the team in rebounding eight times. BYU needs Mika to continue rebounding at a high rate this season, as well as provide the Cougars with a scoring presence in the low post.
With Emery, Haws and Mika, BYU has a foundation to build on for the next three seasons–a luxury the program isn’t accustomed to. Now, it’s up to the team to make the most of its rare opportunity.
In a West Coast Conference expected to be dominated (again) by Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s this season, the Cougars are on the upward trajectory from a bubble team to a player on the national stage. They may not make it this season, but there’s a good chance it will happen sometime during the next three years before Emery, Haws and Mika graduate.