COUGAR SPORTS SATURDAY

BYU Cougars Basketball Team Has A Chance To Be Elite Defensively

May 19, 2020, 3:30 PM | Updated: Jun 3, 2020, 12:51 pm
Kolby Lee - BYU Basketball...
Brigham Young Cougars forward Kolby Lee (40) high-fives the students after the game against the San Diego Toreros in Provo on Thursday, Jan. 16, 2020. BYU won 93-70. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)
(Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

PROVO, Utah – Last week the BYU Cougars basketball program let fans peek behind the curtain with an hour-long Zoom call with a few coaches and players.

Hanging with the Cougs” was a cool, creative week of content for fans, with some fascinating comments about the upcoming team.

Coach Mark Pope was on the call, albeit briefly, due to some errands he was running. Hey, even successful college coaches have errands to run.

Assistant Coach Chris Burgess joined players Gavin Baxter and Trevin Knell on the call and gave an update on Baxter, who missed most of last season with an injury.

“Gavin is working on his ability to play both the four position and the five position,” said Burgess. “We know that Gavin can score on the block, finishes on rolls at the rim, maybe better than anyone probably in the western United States.”

Matt Haarms, Richard Harward, Kolby Lee, Wyatt Lowell and Baxter round out a deep and talented frontcourt.

“The biggest thing for him is his decision making with the ball on the perimeter. For us to be a top 20 team again, Gavin will have to play the four and the five-position and it makes us incredibly long and athletic.”

It’s exciting to imagine the lineups that Coach Pope and his staff can implement defensively with that kind of length.

“There’s going to be times when we will have three guys out there that are 6’10” and above with a seven something wingspan,” said Burgess.

The Cougars ranked tied for 248th in total rebounds last season. I’d be shocked if they weren’t a top 25 rebounding team next year.

The biggest question facing the coaching staff is how many big guys can you play at one time without sacrificing perimeter defense?

“I know we can score,” said Burgess. “I know we can rebound, but can our bigger guys defend positions like the three and four spot?”

Burgess revealed that the coaching staff is possibly looking at implementing zone principles. Possibly a 1-3-1 zone anchored by Matt Haarms or Richard Harward or a 2-3 zone similar to what Syracuse is known to play defensively.

“I’m telling you we are going to have one of the best frontcourts BYU as seen in a long time,” said Burgess.

With all the size and length, Burgess was asked what it would take to see the Cougars with five big men in one lineup.

“A 30 point margin,” Burgess joked on the call.

That’s not going to happen. But you could see a lineup with three of them on the floor with Gavin Baxter or Wyatt Lowell playing the small forward position. Add in Conner Harding at the shooting guard position, and you have a lethal defensive unit.

I believe next year’s team will be one of the best defensive teams the Cougars have ever seen.

You can hear Cougar Sports Saturday on KSL Newsradio or download the podcast here.

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