Optimism, passion, humor topics for discussion at Beehive Classic panel
Tuesday’s news conference to promote the second annual Zions Bank Beehive Classic provided ample opportunity for BYU coach Dave Rose, Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak, Utah State coach Craig Smith and Weber State coach Randy Rahe to talk about basketball in the state of Utah and their respective teams.
And, as it turned out, work on their comic timing.
“We will play all three of these teams in the preseason,” Rose cracked. “I was hoping coming up here that they would hate their teams but they love their teams, so I’ll have to deal with that on the way home.”
Krystkowiak pointed out that Vivint Smart Home Arena president Jim Olson was wearing red socks and Rose countered that Davis was wearing a blue blazer.
“We’re undefeated,” Rahe deadpanned during his interview.
Everybody loves their team in August and that optimism shown through at the news conference, held at Vivint Smart Home Arena. The Beehive Classic is scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 8 with BYU and Utah meeting at noon and Utah State taking on Weber State at 2:30 p.m.
“For us at BYU, this is something that we’ve waited for,” Rose said. “I started talking about this with Coach (Steve) Cleveland years ago when we were together. Basketball in the state of Utah is a real tradition and there’s real passion for each other’s universities. I think it’s important to play. It’s a great venue and a great situation. We’re excited to be a part of it.”
In last year’s Beehive Classic, BYU edged Weber State 72-68 and Utah topped Utah State 77-67.
“The game of basketball in Utah is something special,” Krystkowiak said. “It’s played properly, it’s played together and the kids play really hard. We have a lot of great coaches at that level. If you think about the traditions at each institution, we’re lucky to have that many good teams in this state.”
As for the BYU-Utah rivalry, December’s game will be the first at a neutral site in the series since a 2006 meeting at the Pepsi Center in the Mountain West Conference Tournament.
“We recruit the same guys,” Rose said. “They have guys on their roster that we tried to get and we have guys on our roster they tried to get. I think it (the arena) will be pretty full and tickets will be hard to get. A noon game is fun for the fans but tough on the guys and coaches. It’s a whole different day. Utah on our schedule is exciting for our fans and I think it’s exciting for Utah fans.”
Rose said his program’s offseason was “interesting,” and that’s putting it mildly. Yoeli Childs and Eli Bryant tested the professional basketball waters; Childs came back, Bryant didn’t. Guard Nick Emery returns to the program after a one-year hiatus, though he is suspended the first nine games of the season due to improper contact with a booster. Rose said sophomore big man Ryan Andrus is still awaiting medical clearance to begin playing and summer workouts were bolstered by the return of a pair of returned missionaries in Gavin Baxter and Connor Harding. Former Utah Mr. Basketball Jesse Wade, who played at Gonzaga a year after returning from his LDS mission, announced on social media he was transferring to BYU and will sit out the 2018-19 season.
“Our last week this summer that we had, I really felt like we had a group of guys who understand exactly what our challenge is this year and exactly how we want to play,” Rose said. “It’s cliché but it’s the honest truth: Every year is a different challenge and every year you have to find a way to adapt how you’re going to play and what you’re going to do with the personnel you have.
“I’m excited about our guard line. I think our front line is something we’re going to have to develop a bit. We’re happy to have Yoeli back to anchor us in there.”
BYU has put together a challenging preseason schedule that includes games with Nevada, Utah, Houston, San Diego State, UNLV and Mississippi State. The NCAA has put an emphasis on quality preseason games and the Cougars are trying to line those games up.
“We had a lot of conversations with Power 5 teams,” Rose said. “But when it came down to getting a game, Mississippi State was the only game that we got. We also UNLV and San Diego State and Nevada, and think those are real quality games. It doesn’t matter how many you win. It’s about who and where you are playing. I think we all learned it’s becoming pretty consistent with how you’re NOT going to get in.”
Tickets for the Beehive Classic can be purchased through each of the participating school’s athletic department ticket office and the Vivint Smart Home Arena box office at www.vivintarena.com. The tickets will provide entry to both games and each school has been allotted an equal amount of tickets.
A portion of the proceeds from the Beehive Classic will be donated to the scholarship funds of the four participating schools. Last year, that was $30,000.
There is a three-year agreement (2017-19) in place with all four schools in a round-robin format so BYU will play Utah State next year.
Exhibition schedule set
BYU opens the 2018-19 season with the Cougar Tip-off on Friday, Oct. 19 and plays two exhibition games at the Marriott Center. The first will be against Saint Martin’s, an NAIA school from Lacey, Wash., on Wednesday, Oct. 24. The final exhibition will be against Salt Lake City’s Westminster on Thursday, Nov. 1.
The Cougars open the season on Nov. 9 in the Marriott Center against Utah Valley University.