Pieces Coming Together

When the men's basketball team spoke to the media last week, they had just completed their first practice and were only starting to figure out what they had with the new additions and players returned from missions. But by the time they spoke to the media again earlier this week, they had a good number of practices under their belt and a better understanding of the makeup of the team.

"[I'm] seeing a lot of good effort," said Jimmer Fredette about the new players on the team. "They're trying to just find their role, kind of their niche on the team, but they're doing a great job. They're shooting the ball well, they're working real hard on defense trying to get our defensive scheme to fit their style, and so they're doing good. We'll see how the games come and how they figure out things when there's people in the stands and we're playing against a different team and not just our same people every single day."

The coaches and players have acknowledged that the team lost some important contributors after last season, but they have also had good things to say about what the team gained in the offseason.

While Fredette had previously expressed optimism about the new additions, he had also talked about how those players would need time to gel and get experience within Coach Rose's system. However, this week he seemed to be pleasantly surprised with how things have been coming along.

"I think our team looks better than expected right now," said Fredette. "With the guys coming off of missions and some new guys, we didn't know what to expect, but we knew we had a hard-working group. But I think Coach is pretty pleased with our offensive and defensive effort so far. Obviously we have a lot of things to work on, but we're real excited and we're looking pretty good."

While the team has five new additions this year, Chris Collinsworth and Nick Martineau aren't technically new, as they both played as true freshman before leaving to serve a mission.

Now back in the familiar confines of the Marriott Center, those two have caught Coach Rose's eye.

"I'm really impressed with the two missionaries – Nick and Chris," said Rose. "Both of them are in really, really good shape and they kind of jumped right back in as far as grasping our system. They both play really hard and I think that the timing of their missions were perfect as far as when they got back."

Meanwhile, Kyle Collinsworth, Anson Winder and Stephen Rogers are spending their first seasons with the Cougars.

While Rose noted that Winder has been slowed by the knee injury he suffered in the offseason, he added that the freshman guard is starting to play a lot better in recent practices.

"I think he's getting a lot more confidence in the strength of his knee," said Rose.

As for Kyle, Rose said he has looked really good at times but has also struggled a bit when the coaches have introduced new things. It's essentially a balancing act between playing hard and thinking at the same time. Nevertheless, Rose said that "he's had flashes of really consistent, high-level play."

Kyle, Martineau and Winder are the three candidates to fill the backup point guard role.

"Kyle Collinsworth has played quite a bit [of point guard] actually, and he brings a whole other dimension because of his size, his ability to guard that position, and he's a great passer, very unselfish," said Rose.

Rose is looking to find a permanent, steady backup for Fredette, as opposed to switching up who fills that role on a game-by-game basis.

As for the final newcomer, junior college transfer Stephen Rogers, Rose said, "I think that he's going to be able to play multiple positions for us like we thought when we recruited him, and he's getting used to the pace of how we play, but I like him. I think that he'll really help us."

Rogers is kind of a streaky shooter right now according to Rose, but when he's on a roll he is as good a shooter as the team has. That was evident during Wednesday's Cougar Tipoff, when Rogers recorded a rare four-point play on his first shot, but also missed a few other shots, one of which was an airball. While Rose said they need to get him more consistent, he also noted that Rogers has a variety of shots.

"I think his size and his length allows him to be really pretty creative with his ability to make shots. He's good in the low post, which I think will really help us because we like posting up that position, and I think offensively he's a guy that we'll really count on."

The coaches and players will have an even better idea of how all the pieces are coming together after their exhibition games this Friday evening and then the following Friday. The coaching staff intentionally arranged to have the two exhibition games scheduled farther apart than normal so they could have more time during the week to work on what they'll see in the first game.

But, the coaches and players are already getting a feel for what kind of team they have.

"I think we're gonna be a tough team," said Fredette. "We have a lot of tenacity, a lot of players that have worked really hard and want to win, and that's a big thing. We're gonna be pretty athletic. We get up and down the floor real well and shoot the ball well, so I think we're gonna be a little more athletic than we normally are and get up on people and try to cause them some problems defensively with our pressure and get the ball, get some turnovers and get out and run."

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