You can look it up in the Holy Writ of College Hoops, where it says "A prospect is not without honor, save in his own county."

Anyway, so it was about this time last year with one Mekeli Wesley, a 6-foot-9 senior standout at Provo High and an early signee with the BYU, who narrowly chose the Cougars over Colorado State.But Wesley's addition was all but overshadowed by the loss of prize recruit Chris Burgess to Duke, the challenges of three Y. coaches in as many months and the struggles of a single-win season.

Besides, the casual fan was probably wondering how big of a recruiting coup was it to get a kid from BYU's own basketball backyard - and snatching him away from CSU, Hawaii, Washington State, LSU, Marquette, Pepper-dine and Loyola Marymount. With the exception of LSU and maybe Marquette, hardly a household hoops name among the bunch.

Fast forward back to present, where Wesley's play as a starting freshman frontliner is one of the few highlights so far with a Cougar basketball program with a new roster, a new coach and some of the same holdover struggles on the court.

If the Y. basketball team is due for a rebirth under first-year coach Steve Cleveland, Wesley will be there for the full ride - a planned departure for a two-year LDS Church mission notwithstanding. He isn't a single-season holdover like senior Justin Weidauer, nor is he a quick-fix addition like the handful of junior-college transfers that dot the Y. roster.

No, BYU fans have seen the future, and it is Wesley. They've also seen the present, and much of that is Wesley as well, such as his 31-point outing earlier this week against Washington, his 27-point performance earlier this month at Utah State and his team-high 15-point scoring average through seven games.

"I knew I could make an impact on this team, but I didn't think I'd be starting as one of the two or three top guys," said Wesley, who as a BYU-bound recruit watched with more than just casual interest the Y.'s woes during the 1-25 campaign last year.

"I just felt bad for the guys who were playing, but I was optimistic for what it would do for me. I thought it would give me a chance to get thrown into the mix."

Thrown into the mix, thrown into the fire - and thrown a bouquet or two of praises from opposing coaches, such as Washington's Bob Bender.

"Wesley is a very, very good basketball player," Bender said following Tuesday night's game - a standout night when Wesley scored the most points by a freshman in any Y. game during the 1990s, and against a UW team that featured a pair of seasoned 7-footers.

"If you're not ready to go defensively, he's going to cause you a lot of bumps and bruises," Bender continued. "For a freshman at a post-up position, he's as good as anybody. Regardless of size and age, he is really good, and he took it to those two big kids."

Oh, Bender knew all about Wesley coming in. He had tried to recruit him, as did other schools across the country, including even 1997 national champion Arizona. But Bender and the rest of the bunch soon learned that Wesley had narrowed his choices down to a select few, primarily BYU, CSU and Hawaii - the latter at least long enough to take the enviable recruiting visit to the islands.

Of course, an island setting would have been a natural for the oldest of Hiagi and Susan Wesley's seven children, who was born in Suva, Fiji, and named after Mekeli Ieremia, a BYU defensive lineman in the mid-1970s.

But Mekeli Wesley had forsaken the islands once before, as a middle school student while his father was teaching in Guam. Rather than stay with his family in the South Pacific, Wesley opted to live in Orem with his uncle, Kelly Lobendahn, an assistant coach at Provo High - and he eventually made his way to the same school as a freshman.

At Provo, Wesley had a major hand in helping the Bulldogs win all but a dozen games over a three-year stretch and state championships during his sophomore and senior seasons. The two-time Region 8 MVP and three-time all-state selection averaged 21.7 points and 10.8 rebounds en route to his 4A MVP honor his final season, when Provo not only claimed the state crown but was ranked No. 6 by USA Today among the West's Top 10 teams.

Provo coach Craig Drury remembers his Bulldog team going to Wesley for the first nine possessions of last year's 4A title game against East. "Nine times down in the box, and nine times he scored - either from the field or at the line," he said.

"Winning is part of his nature," added Drury. "He was willing to score no points and win rather than score 50 points and lose . . . . He's not one who wants to go out and win his personal matchups at the expense of the team."

After a storied prep career, Wesley teamed with the Duke-bound Burgess (whom he tried to persuade to join him in Provo) and other talented peers - such as current Kansas freshman Eric Cheno-with and Washington's own Michael Johnson - on the Franklin Quest All-Star team that played in four national tournaments. The result was two top-four finishes in the prestigious Las Vegas and Colorado tourneys.

Even though Wesley was brought to BYU by his predecessor Roger Reid, Cleveland is content to have the freshman who has the finesse of an inside jump hook and perimeter three-pointer as well as the body and temperament to bang inside with the big boys. "He fits in just fine with the system," he said.

"But it's unfair to expect a freshman to go with 30 points every night," warned the Cougar coach, adding that occasional nights of 20 points, followed by seven- and nine-pointers, is much more likely. In other words, identical to Wesley's single-digit scoring against Penn State and Boise State before the recent 31-point outburst.

With all his previous successes, the Cougars' victory-challenged preseason has been difficult for the 18-year-old. "It's tough," Wesley said. "I need to step up and show a little leadership. I think I am one of the leaders, and I need to show it."



Top BYU freshman scoring performances

Pts. Player Opponent Year

36 Danny Ainge Idaho State 1977

33 Danny Ainge Idaho State 1978

31 Mekeli Wesley Washington 1997

30 Fred Roberts Texas-El Paso 1979

29 Danny Ainge Arizona 1978

29 Shawn Bradley Eastern Kentucky 1990

29 Russell Larson Utah State 1991

28 Danny Ainge Bradley 1977

28 Danny Ainge San Diego State 1978

27 Danny Ainge Long Beach State 1977

27 Fred Roberts Colorado State 1979

27 Shawn Bradley Wyoming 1991

27 Mekeli Wesley Utah State 1997