Point guard position in flux

When Anson Winder was notified that members of the media wanted to interview him following Monday's practice, he appeared to be a bit surprised. After all, the redshirt freshman guard has very much been under the radar and was seemingly a forgotten commodity this offseason, with other freshmen receiving more attention and playing a bigger role in the team's exhibition games in Greece.

Simply put, not much was expected of Anson Winder this season. Before the season started, Coach Dave Rose singled out Damarcus Harrison and Josh Sharp as freshmen that he expected to play a big role this year and help the team.

Similarly, not much was expected of junior guard Craig Cusick. Cusick, who redshirted at Utah during the 2006-07 season, spent the past couple of years as a practice player for BYU before earning a spot on the roster this season.

However, if last week's game against Longwood is any indication, Winder and Cusick will play a decent role this season.

Starting with BYU's trip to Greece, Coach Rose experimented with having Brock Zylstra play point guard, which isn't his natural position. But with redshirt freshman Matt Carlino ineligible to play in BYU's first 10 games this season, the Cougars needed help at that position. After all, they had just replaced a starting point guard that was the national player of the year (more on that fellow later), and the heir apparent can't play until December 17.

But after Zylstra started in BYU's first two games, Rose opted to have Cusick start at point guard last Friday against Longwood, while Winder came off the bench and ran some point himself.

"A few weeks ago Coach moved me to the point and he told me to just push the pace a little bit, get my teammates involved, and so far it's worked out," said Winder.

Zylstra had five turnovers in both of his starts, while Winder and Cusick have yet to record a turnover this season.

Zylstra seemed to also benefit from the change; free to play his natural position on the wing, he didn't turn the ball over against Longwood. It also seemed to rub off on the team, which had only 10 turnovers last Friday compared to the 21 turnovers it averaged in the first two games.

"Coach wants us to turn over as least amount of times as possible, so yeah, me and Craig having zero turnovers helped out a lot," said Winder.


Craig Cusick

For the time being, Rose plans on having Cusick remain the starter, at least presumably until Carlino joins the fray.

"In the first two games I think he played 32, 34 minutes without a turnover, and that kind of gets you an opportunity, and then he took advantage of that opportunity on Friday," Rose said about Cusick. "He played well. I thought Anson came in and played well, and so we'll just try and build on that."

After playing on BYU's scout team for a long time, Cusick put himself in a position to be able to get playing time during actual games.

"He's practiced with us for a couple years now, and I think that probably the biggest factor for him is the fact that he doesn't turn the ball over and he can get us into the offense, and he's a really good shooter," said Rose.

Meanwhile, Winder – who redshirted last year as a true freshman – was behind a couple of teammates at the wing, so the coaches wanted to try and move him elsewhere and see how it went. Rose saw some potential in him to play point guard.


"The most important thing for us on our guard line is you got to be a pretty good shooter, you gotta be pretty quick, gotta be fast, and Anson's all those things," said Rose.

Winder did have experience playing point guard as a backup to Johnathan Loyd – brother of former Cougar Michael Loyd – at Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas.

After not getting off the bench against Utah State and only playing two minutes against BYU Hawaii, Winder recorder five assists, two three-pointers and no turnovers against Longwood in 25 minutes of play.

"It was a little tiring," Winder said with a laugh. "But it felt good to be out there again. I hadn't got minutes like that since high school, so I felt really good. I was glad I could help out the team."

Meanwhile, Cusick recorded one assist, one three-pointer and no turnovers in 16 minutes of play against Longwood.

BYU's rotation at point guard is still very much a work in progress, but so far, so good.

As for what Winder wants to improve on, he cited handling the ball under pressure and making good decisions.

Helping him and Cusick improve on those and others areas is none other than Cougar legend Jimmer Fredette. With the NBA lockout still in effect, Fredette has switched places with Cusick and taken on the role of a practice player on BYU's scout team. So, BYU's guards get to practice against the reigning national player of the year and the school's all-time leading scorer.

"Oh yeah, that definitely helps out a lot because he never misses for one, and he definitely puts pressure on us to guard him, so that helps out a lot," said Winder.


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