Media Day Report

Keeping spirits up and prepping for the school north of town were the dominant themes of this week's basketball media day. Coaches and players alike are keeping their collective heads in the game despite a disappointing season. An upcoming trip to the Huntsman Center gave the team a rallying point this week.

Coach Steve Cleveland knows his team has just come off one of the worst road trips in his tenure at BYU. The problem is it's not over. There is still one more road game to be played – at #12 Utah.

He thinks his team is ready for the challenge, but does understand what the Cougars are up against.

"[The team has] come out and practiced hard and had good attitudes," he said. "I'm confident that we'll come out and give a good effort Saturday. I don't know what will happen in the ball game, but I know we'll give a great effort. [Utah is] outstanding team."

One thing that center Derek Dawes thinks it will take to be competitive is a good start.

"The last three games we've started out very slowly and had to play catch-up," he said. "It's a lot easier to when you're not playing catch-up, mentally and physically. It's very important to get out going from the tip and playing the way we're capable of playing."

In the previous meeting, a 72-58 loss, BYU actually led at half-time before the Utes jumped out of the second-half gate and ran away with the game.

"We need to take care of the ball," Dawes said. "We started out the second half, last time, with five straight turnovers. We can't have that happen again."

Turnovers are one thing that has plagued the Cougars all season long. During conference play, they have averaged more than 14 a game. In fact, they have not played a game with less than 10. Ironically, last time against Utah, BYU only had 10 turnovers a conference-play low.

While beating Utah would be a season high, Coach Cleveland said that it would not make up for the rest of the season.

"It would be a great win for the season but it's one game," he said. "I'm in this community and that's what Cougar fans would like and they would have liked the season to not have been what it was. One game doesn't do anything for the twenty-five or so others. That's not the way it works."

Knowing what his team is up against, he has tried to counsel his players to give a good effort no matter what happens. He said that people can criticize all they want, but that's doesn't have to affect the effort his players give.

Cleveland also wants his players to enjoy themselves. After the Air Force game, a 70-39 loss, Cleveland called the team into his hotel room and told them to enjoy the moment. They only get so many opportunities and they should be having a good experience and playing as hard as they can.

"You have to play because you love to," Cleveland said. "You don't play because you're having a good season. Good or bad, you either love the game or you don't."

"It's about us sticking together as teammates and coaches and not giving up and putting forth the best effort that we can," Dawes said. "We don't have anything to lose, so we're going to bust our butts these last two games and then go into the tournament."

Other notes:

- Keena Young and Garner Meads are both done for the season with injuries. "The doctors are saying it's like 99-percent that he won't play," Cleveland said. "He'd like to, but he won't. It's killing him not to be playing, but unfortunately, that's how it played out."

- Chris Miles will play and Coach Cleveland fully expects him to take some ribbing from the fans. But that's part of college basketball he said. "If it's not Chris," he said, "Then it'll be somebody else. They'll probably be on me."

- Cleveland recalled last year he saw a clever sign that made him laugh. He went over and introduced himself to the Ute fans. He had a conversation with them that "kind of mellowed them out."

- Freshman Trent Plaisted and David Burgess are still recovering from injuries. Plaisted is three or four weeks away from being able to go full speed. The tendonitis is responding to the physical therapy and likely will not need surgery. Burgess is still on crutches and still several months from being at full speed. Cleveland did not expect Burgess to be fully healthy until the first part of the summer.

- "We're not going away," Cleveland said. "We're going to come back and work towards getting back to the top of this conference again. In the next couple years, with these players, I think we can do that. We're trying to get to the tournament and win a game. I believe we can do that. It's a very possible thing in the next year or two with the young men in the program, with the young men we're going to recruit."


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