PROVO — Dave Rose is battling to stop a three-game losing streak, and he’s got a trio of recruits from Shanghai, China, Brazil and nearby Timpview High in his backyard this week playing in the Great Western Shootout at Orem High.
It should satisfy Rose significantly if he could end the losing streak with a win over Utah State on Wednesday in the Marriott Center and show some positive vibes toward his foreign center, Shengzhe Li, future BYU Brazilian forward Bernardo Da Silva and local Timpview star Nate Hansen.
The 6-foot-11 Li plays for former BYU assistant and Utah Valley head coach Jeff Reinert at Santa Margarita High School in California. Li, Da Silva and Hansen all play in back-to-back games Thursday, beginning at 3 p.m.
In BYU’s loss at Weber State on Saturday, the first loss to the Wildcats during his BYU career, the Cougar coach was visibly wound up during a late second-half timeout when his team failed to mount much of a defense.
And he should have been wound up. His BYU team is slumping and has appeared uninspired in three straight losses. If things don’t improve, the streak could grow to five by the weekend with upcoming games against Utah State and Utah.
Consider: Weber State (155th), is ranked as the weakest opponent in this seven-game span by Jeff Sagarin of USA Today. The Cougars (114th) will face the 36th-ranked Aggies in midweek and then take on 127th Utah Saturday at Vivint Arena.
If BYU puts forward the effort witnessed in Ogden, USU will roll past the Cougars on their home court. One of the more amazing numbers about this BYU squad is the 28 percent shooting from 3-point land. That ranks BYU 322nd nationally among 350 D-I teams.
Rose should be concerned. A month ago, an NCAA committee on infractions recommended his program be put on probation and vacate more than 40 wins. It was the same week the university pre-empted the announcement by giving him a contract extension. All of this came in the shadow of a brand new multimillion-dollar basketball practice facility. He has four ESPN top-100 prospects in his program. One could say the new digs and contract is a direct and ostentatious vote of confidence to perform.
In the real world outside the BYU bubble, that would be cause for real concern. That’s why losses to Illinois State, ranked 138th by Pomeroy this week, and Weber State (144th) makes matchups to USU (56th) and Utah (114th) doubtful for Pomeroy’s 81st-ranked Cougars.
Rose has his work cut out for him this week when future talent is in town.
This is approaching almost a decade for the Great West Shootout and its organizer, Orem High coach Golden Holt. He’s tried to bring in teams from coast to coast to face local high school talent and has succeeded.
This week’s field includes Timpview, Lone Peak and Orem from Utah, and Denver East (Colorado), Richland High (Washington), British Columbia Christian Academy (Canada), South County (Virginia), Mountain View (Arizona) and Santa Margarita (California).
Reinert says his 7-foot Li will make an immediate defensive impact on BYU when he comes to Provo this summer.
“Li is a highly skilled big man who will play within BYU’s system of play. He’ll make an impact inside the paint,” said Reinert Sunday night during a phone interview.
“I’d like to get him more touches on offense, but he’s playing with two Pac-12 players, one who is signed to play at UCLA and another who will be at USC,” said Reinert.
“I expect Li will play professional ball in China after college, and he is well aware of what it means to be where Fredette came from and how it could tie into what he does in the future.”
It is a big deal for him to be in Provo and follow in the footsteps of Fredette, who is now a superstar in Shanghai in the Chinese Basketball League, said Reinert.
Thursday’s first tournament game tips at 3 p.m. with Wasatch Academy vs. South County. Reinert's team, Santa Margarita, meets Hansen’s Timpview squad at 4:30 p.m. Denver East will take on BC Christian at 6 p.m., and Orem will host Richland at 7:30 p.m. Lone Peak and Mountain View play at 9 p.m. in the final game that night.
Play resumes Friday at 2 p.m. with Santa Margarita vs. Denver East. Timpview and Mountain View will take the court at 3:30, followed by Richland and Wasatch Academy at 5. South County and Lone Peak are scheduled to tip at 7. BC Christian and Orem finish the night with an 8:30 p.m. tipoff.
On Saturday, the first game tips at 1 p.m. featuring the best matchups based on team performance from Thursday and Friday. A championship game begins at 8.
As for Rose and his squad, this week they’re fighting against lost respect and momentum. The agenda is simple: much better defense and 3-point shooting. They will get back embattled guard Nick Emery to help the process Wednesday against USU.
It is still early enough to turn things around, right? Ask the Utah Jazz. Can Kyle Korver do for the Jazz what Emery might do for the Cougars?