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September 6, 2008
Jimmer Fredette stepped in as a freshman and played a major role for the Cougars last season. He didn't make a single start, but Fredette played in all 35 games and was the team's fifth-leading scorer despite averaging 18 minutes per game. He can expect to see his court time increase with the graduation losses of guards Ben Murdock and Sam Burgess, last year's starters. Fredette proved to be solid in all phases. He's a tough player who played both guard spots. BYU used him more at the point down the stretch, and he could start the season there.
Lee Cummard averaged nearly 16 points a game for BYU last season.
When Fredette is at the point, most of the minutes at the 2-guard will go to sophomore Jackson Emery, who returns from a two-year mission. He showed flashes of his potential in his true freshman season in 2005-06. He gives BYU another strong outside shooter, something the Cougars always utilize. Emery also runs well and can fill the lane.
The coaches haven't settled on how things will shake out at the guard sports, but they like the competition and the options they'll have.
Wingman Lee Cummard returns after a season in which he was the Mountain West Conference Co-Player of the Year. The Cougars' captain is an all-court guy with an array of skills few players in the country can match. He ranked in the top 10 in the MWC in scoring, rebounding, assists, field-goal percentage and free-throw percentage. His 3-point percentage (a sterling 47.2 percent) would have ranked in the top 10, too, but he didn't make enough to qualify (he made 1.7 per game; it takes 2.5). Cummard also defends well and does all of the little things that help his team win.
The other top gun up front is Jonathan Tavernari, a face-up 4-man with one of the best shooting strokes in the country when he has it going. He hit 88 3-pointers last season and ranked fourth in the conference in 3-point percentage (37.6). Word out of BYU is that Tavernari has worked hard in the offseason on his conditioning. Coaches expect him to be an improved rebounder and defender while continuing to knock down a bevy of 3s.
Junior Chris Miles faces the unenviable task of replacing Trent Plaisted (15.6 ppg, 7.7 rpg) at center. Miles is a match size-wise, but he doesn't have quite the athleticism. That's not a knock on Miles, because few big men could run the floor with Plaisted. The BYU staff believes Miles will get up and down just fine. He'll have to, because the style the Cougars play requires a center who can get out on the break. Even with his relative lack of experience, you can expect Miles to get plenty of touches in the low post.
A couple of 6-10 redshirts will back up Miles and provide depth. Gavin MacGregor is a senior who sat out last season with a foot injury. James Anderson sat out after returning from his two-year mission and will be in his first year of eligibility.
Former Oklahoma 6A high school player of the year Noah Hartsock also will see some minutes in the frontcourt. He also is about to start his first year of eligibility after taking his two-year mission. He's 6-8 and can play the 4, but is much more a low-post type than Tavernari.
BYU is a team that believes in the transition game. A lot of coaches will say they like to get out and go, but the Cougars do it. They ranked second in the conference in scoring (73.7 ppg). They will look for their 3-point shooters to spot up on the break. In the halfcourt, they always run some looks through the low post. The interesting thing is who they choose to put on the block. A lot of times that will be Cummard, with Tavernari taking his man out on the perimeter and spotting up from 3.
SHOES TO FILL
C Trent Plaisted. Plaisted was taken in the second round of the NBA Draft, 46th overall. It's tough to lose a guy who went for 21 points and 12 rebounds against Louisville last November in Las Vegas and followed it the very next night with 24 and 17 against North Carolina.
MUST STEP UP
Miles. He doesn't have to score like Plaisted with Cummard, Tavernari and Fredette around him. If he can rebound and defend like the coaches believe he's capable, the Cougars will be just fine.
G/F Charles Abouo. An athletic wing out of Brewster Academy, a noted prep school in New Hampshire, Abouo has a chance to see significant minutes. He's a big-time athlete with significant bounce. He'll back up Cummard.
Bob McClellan is the college basketball editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.