PROVO — BYU guard Eli Bryant saw a familiar face in the crowd Thursday night in the Cougars’ 69-45 victory over Portland.
That would be Utah Jazz rookie sensation Donovan Mitchell, who sat courtside at the Marriott Center.
Bryant and Mitchell played against each other in prep school in New Hampshire — Bryant for New Hampton School and Mitchell for Brewster Academy.
“We’ve stayed in contact over the years,” said Bryant, who scored 22 points and collected a career-high 15 rebounds. “As you see, he’s having a spectacular year.”
Bryant enjoyed having an old foe, and friend, in attendance.
“It was cool. I haven’t seen him since prep school days up in New Hampshire. It was good,” Bryant said. “He said he might try to get to the game Saturday (against Saint Mary’s) but I’m pretty sure they have a game so I don’t know that’s going to work.”
Apparently, Mitchell liked his evening in Provo.
“What a great experience! Appreciate the love @BYUCougars,” Mitchell tweeted afterward.
Bryant isn’t surprised that Mitchell is flourishing in the NBA.
“That guy is super athletic. He’s super long,” he said. “It’s all about the mindset and he has that assertive mindset. That’s what you need in the (NBA).”
For BYU coach Dave Rose, having a star of Mitchell’s magnitude is a double-edged sword of sorts. Mitchell was gracious enough to sign autographs and pose for photos with Cougar fans during the game.
“It’s kind of a distraction. He had a sideshow going on with all of the fans. But it was fun to have him here,” Rose said. “He’s having an unbelievable rookie season. I had a chance to watch him a couple of weeks ago. It’s amazing. The future is great for that club. When the Jazz are good, the whole state benefits from it. The basketball world is more excited and more positive — college, professional, high school. So that was kind of fun.”
NICE GUY: BYU forward Yoeli Childs scored a career-high 26 points and had 13 rebounds against Portland’s 7-foot-2 center, Philipp Hartwich.
But Childs couldn’t fully enjoy his performance.
“He’s a really good shot-blocker … He’s a really good player,” Childs said of Hartwich, who had five blocks. “It was annoying, too, because he’s really likable. You’d make a shot and he’d say, ‘Good shot, man.’ I hate that, when they’re so nice to you. I actually think our last game, against Texas Southern, helped out with that, playing against another 7-2 guy.”
SHAW’S SEASON DEBUT: Junior forward Braiden Shaw, who has been injured all season, got into a game for the first time this season with 1:25 remaining. He didn’t score or get a rebound but he did pick up a personal foul in his limited action.