PROVO — Dave Rose couldn’t help but smile and think back to the fall of 2016 and ’17 after the Cougar Tipoff ended Friday night.
The BYU basketball coach smiled while pondering out loud how fun it was to see Nick Emery on the court again after the trials he’s been through to return and how much progress power forward Yoeli Childs has made since the team’s annual intrasquad scrimmage two years ago.
Childs dominated offensively to the pleasure of several thousand fans at the Marriott Center, scoring a game-high 35 points with nine rebounds.
“It’d be interesting to go back and watch the Cougar Tipoff two years ago and just kind of see his game, the comfort level he felt out there compared to how he felt tonight,” Rose said. “He’s put in a lot of time. Our coaches have put in a lot of time. He’s really improved and he’s got a lot of room to continue to improve. I’m really impressed with the approach he takes every day.”
Childs certainly impressed those who watched him make sweet moves from all over the court — from inside power moves and soft-touch mid-range shots to a few long-bomb swishes.
The 6-foot-8 junior hit 16 of 24 shots, including 3 of 5 from 3-point range. Rose said Childs was pleased with his personal outing but obviously disappointed it came in an 81-77 loss to the squad that included Luke Worthington (18 points), Jahshire Hardnett (18 points), TJ Haws (16 points) and Dalton Nixon (12 points).
“I was trying to play within the flow of the game and take the best shots. There was a stretch there where I was taking bad shots and that’s not great for the team,” Childs said. “I’m definitely trying to get a feel for it and all of the guys are trying to get a feel for what shots we should be taking, what reads we should make.”
The two BYU squads hit 60 of 114 shots (52.6 percent) and connected on 21 of 51 3-pointers. Seven Cougars had multiple treys, including a 4-for-8 showing by Haws.
The junior guard was just happy to get out and play some hoops in front of a crowd. The Y. will take on its first unfamiliar opponent Wednesday when it hosts Saint Martin’s at 7 p.m.
“I think it’s good for us to get out and play in front of people,” Haws said. “We’ve been practicing since June, July — just been working hard in the gym. It’s nice for us to get out in front of people and be able to figure out team chemistry and things like that.”
BYU started Childs, Zac Seljaas (14 points), McKay Cannon, Rylan Bergersen and Gavin Baxter on the losing White squad, while the victorious Blue team led off with Haws, Hardnett, Nixon, Worthington and Connor Harding.
The Cougars have yet to solidify an actual starting unit or rotation. That’s subject to change in a couple of months when a key contributor will be available for the first time.
After sitting out last year, Emery made his first appearance since withdrawing from school last November. He’ll miss the first nine games because of allegations of accepting improper benefits.
Though Emery only scored five points and hit just 2 of 8 field goals, his presence, fun style of play and competitive spirit were among the highlights of the scrimmage.
“First off, I’m just happy for him. He’s been through a lot of stuff and he’s a team-first guy. He’s always picking everybody up during practice, making sure everyone’s doing all right,” Childs said. “I’m just really happy for him that he’s back out here playing with us. He’s fun to play with.”
Childs said Emery is one of the few guys in the country — adding that Haws is another — who can drop 40 on any given night.
“Having a guy like him is unbelievable,” Childs said. “He can do a lot. He can win you a game. We’re lucky to have him and we’re happy to have him back.”
So, obviously, is Rose. He said Emery appreciates the opportunity to play more than ever because it was taken away from him for a year.
“It was fun to watch Nick play again,” Rose said. “I just had to smile because he’s back where he feels really comfortable. This will be tough because that’s all he gets until the middle of December. I think he gets better every day in practice.”
Haws played in Friday’s scrimmage with five stitches above his right eye. He and Childs laughed about that. The sharpshooter said teammate Troy Evans elbowed him in the face during practice.
“Fun fact about that,” Childs said. “The very beginning of practice he gets hit, goes over and gets stitches, comes back to practice, laces up in time for scrimmage and hits a game-winner.”
“I hit a few shots,” Haws said, humbly.
“A few shots to win the game,” Childs added with a smile. “He’s a dog.”