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BYU men's basketball: Emery's turbulent career ultimately proves beneficial in ways no one anticipated

Brigham Young Cougars guard Nick Emery (4) high fives fans after the USU game in Provo on Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2018. BYU won 95-80.
Brigham Young Cougars guard Nick Emery (4) high fives fans after the USU game in Provo on Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2018. BYU won 95-80.

PROVO — Nick Emery's BYU basketball career didn't turn out as anyone expected, although the former freshman phenom appears to be at peace with what proved to be a turbulent time in Provo.

Emery announced Tuesday that he's moving on from playing basketball, stating in an Instagram post that he's "at a point in life where I am happy with what I’ve accomplished with basketball and I’m ready to start the next chapter of my life with my wife and son. "

Chapters often don't unfold as planned for players of any sport, and certainly didn't unfold as anticipated for Emery, who was the first of Lone Peak's celebrated 2012-13 class to commit to play for the Cougars.

Emery came to BYU after being named a consensus top 100 recruit nationally before serving a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to Germany. Upon his return for the 2015-16 season he lived up to, if not surpassed most of his recruitment hype, averaging 16.3 points in what proved one of the more successful freshman campaigns of any Cougar player in history.

Fans and media alike prognosticated great things for the 6-foot-2 guard after that first season, and with good reason, before things took a downturn.

His second season proved relatively successful throughout, although his numbers declined slightly in most every category while an incident in which he apparently threw a punch at Utah guard Brandon Taylor brought a lot of negative attention.

Things went downhill sharply following his second season as an ugly divorce precipitated an NCAA investigation of program misconduct with the Lone Peak product at the center of most of it. The Cougars were handed out sharp penalties as a result, with Emery electing to forgo the 2017-18 season altogether in hopes of getting his personal life in order.

Although he made great strides in rectifying a lot of his issues away from basketball during his time off, his once-promising basketball career never recovered.

Sure, there were moments where Emery appeared to recapture his form playing in what proved to be his final season, although those instances proved too few and far between. He finished that 2018-19 season averaging just 6.1 points while taking on a role much different than just about everyone anticipated considering the promising returns of his first two seasons.

The story entering this coming season appeared to feature a rejuvenated Emery under new head coach Mark Pope before Tuesday's announcement, although Emery himself leaves with largely fond thoughts of his time playing in Provo.

"Basketball has taught me more about life than I could have ever imagined," Emery said. "Playing for a university like BYU and playing with some of the best guys has been an incredible blessing. My time here has been a rocky at times, but the good times definitely outweighed the bad. I’ve learned so many life lessons and this journey has been so rewarding."

As for Pope, he expressed gratitude and support for the embattled guard. "We are excited for Nick as he begins this next stage of his life," Pope said. "He has great things ahead.”

For Emery, life has suddenly become about much more than basketball with a new marriage and fatherhood taking center stage. And as for that once-promising hardwood career, it ultimately proved beneficial, albeit in ways most everyone, including Emery himself, likely never anticipated.