Time to Tip Off

Perhaps the most anticipated BYU basketball season in a long, long time is about to tip off. The Cougars are ranked in the preseason for the first time in 30 years, and are armed with a preseason First-Team All-American at point guard. Adding to the intrigue is the fact that Coach Steve Cleveland will return to BYU for the first time since coaching the Cougars from 1997-2005.

Coach Cleveland took over at BYU when the program was on the brink of utter disaster after a one-win season. He made the Cougars competitive again, earning two regular conference championships, one conference tournament championship, and three NCAA Tournament appearances. In the process, he paved the way for the success that Coach Rose and his players have enjoyed since Rose took over.

Rose and Jimmer Fredette shared their thoughts on Cleveland's return, the season opener against Fresno State, and the state of the team as the season starts.

Coach Rose

- Rose said he hopes Coach Cleveland gets a big ovation for accomplishing what he did at BYU, and added that Cleveland did a lot for his career.

-"The one thing that is really unsettling to me is the fact that we're playing a guy that's won more games in here than I have," Rose said with a grin. "Never done that before."

-Fresno State is a very different team than what BYU faced last year, and they'll really only see one Bulldog (Greg Smith) this year that they faced last year. It reminds Rose of coaching at the junior college level, with how different opposing teams would be one year to the next. Nevertheless, Rose said that "Steve's got really talented players."

-He said that this year's team has received a lot of benefits from what past teams have accomplished, and that each year the team has to start from scratch. The coaches have addressed this with the team. "I hope they take that as a challenge, because I can promise you the teams that we're playing will be extremely motivated to play us, and we need to be equally or more motivated to play them."

-On the high expectations for this year's team: "I don't think that the expectations from others should affect the team. Our expectations are what really matter, and where we are right now, we just want to continue to get better every day."

-On whether he compares teams going into the season to his past teams: "I try to avoid it. The thing that's hard for me is that what you remember is you remember the last … three weeks coaching last year's team, and you want this year's team to be at that level. What you don't remember is where last year's team was the first week of the season, and that's where we are. We're not at the end of the year with the group, we're at the beginning of the year. It's a whole new challenge, and so sometimes you have to control your expectations, control your frustration level because guys are still learning, learning as a group. And we'll get better, we'll get better as the season goes, but we want to start off on a good note."

-On how long it might take team for the team to come together: "I would think that our guardline is pretty settled. It's our frontline that we're gonna have to try to figure out what situations with our personnel will be the best, and we've got a lot of different combinations, we've got a group we can play a lot of different ways, but that will take the most time. We don't have a real defensive stopper in the middle like we did with Chris Miles, and so defensively we'll have a little bit different personality, but I hope it doesn't take too long."

-"I hope that we can really score early, because defensively we're still trying to progress. I think this could be a really good defensive team because we're really athletic, we're long, we cause a lot of problems. But around the basket, we're not as good as we need to be."

Jimmer Fredette

- Jimmer said "we're really excited to have Coach Cleveland back, knowing that he did a lot of coaching here and did a great job here, got a lot of wins in this building, and we've talked about that. So he's gonna feel real comfortable here, and we're gonna have to put up our best effort to win the game."

-Fresno State is talented and athletic. Their big man, Greg Smith, will be an NBA player, so they will try and keep it out of his hands as much as possible.

- The team has continued to grow and get more comfortable with each other, but every team won't be clicking right at the start of the season and won't be where they will be at the end of the season. They will continue to grow, and continue to go through growing pains every week and every game.

-On whether he senses there being more excitement for BYU basketball now than in any of his past seasons: "I think that there is a lot of excitement this year for us. I think it's just because we had a really good season last year, and we got some guys that are returning that are ready to go, and some new recruits and guys that are going to be exciting players in the future. So we have a good mix of guys and I think that people are really excited for the season, but like we said we have to play it out and see how it goes, but we're really excited to start."


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