Loyal Cougars

So Aytesless: Assessing fallout from BYU’s miss on Jamal Aytes

Last week, news percolated that BYU target Jamal Aytes (2013) had spurned Dave Rose’s advances, instead verbally committing to UNLV and former Rose prodigy Dave Rice. While not necessarily shocking, this recruiting loss does present problems for a BYU frontcourt that needed a player like Aytes.

Aytes would have added dynamism, versatility, and depth to a potentially lackluster BYU frontcourt[1]. He is considered an impressive rebounder, good ballhandler, and a threat to score in transition, in the post, and from the elbow as a jump shooter—and at 6-foot-6, his size will present matchup problems for most teams.

When playing on the wing, Aytes’s size and post scoring will allow him to overpower most shooting guards and small forwards. Meanwhile, with his rebounding ability, Aytes will be able to play power forward at the college level, matching up against bigger players who he can blow by with his ballhandling.

A BYU team with Aytes would have given Dave Rose incredible flexibility in his lineups. When BYU went small, a lineup of Matt Carlino, Kyle Collinsworth, Tyler Haws, Jamal Aytes, and Eric Mika would have given the Cougars a very athletic group with four ball handlers—a lineup that would have been almost unstoppable in transition[2].

On the other hand, Rose would have the option to go big, with a lineup of Collinsworth, Haws, Aytes, Mika, and Nate Austin. This lineup would have been a rebounding machine and a defensive nightmare for most squads in the West Coast Conference.

However, it’s not only flexibility that Rose wanted from Aytes. His potential as a power forward would have added depth to a shorthanded BYU frontcourt. As presently constituted, the BYU roster contains only four traditional big men: Nate Austin, Eric Mika, Josh Sharp, and Luke Worthington. Of those four players, only two (Austin and Sharp) have played at the college level. Nate Austin can anchor a solid defense and make game-changing hustle plays, but in order to be an effective starter he needs to make considerable progress this offseason developing an offensive post presence, as his love for the three-point line is a possession killer[3]. Most distressingly, however, is Austin’s knack for foul trouble—an unfortunate byproduct of his high energy style.

While Austin will presumably man the center position, the power forward group could be a mess. Josh Sharp demonstrated last season that he could start at power forward alongside a great offensive center like Brandon Davies, but if Sharp and Austin are on the floor together, the Cougars will more or less be playing three-on-five offensively.

Incoming freshmen Eric Mika and Luke Worthington are the question-marks down low. While the buzz around the program is that Mika is an athletic freak—and likely the current frontcourt player with the most upside—how he and Worthington will compete for playing time is a huge question heading into the season.

Aytes playing consistent power forward minutes would have given Rose some breathing room by significantly bolstering the frontcourt depth. Without Aytes, BYU simply cannot afford an injury to a big man this coming season, and any foul trouble will likely force Rose to go extremely small or play Collinsworth at power forward. In fact, adding a skilled “four” like Aytes would have allowed Rose more flexibility to attempt the great Kyle Collinsworth point guard experiment of 2013. If the big-man rotation stays the way it is now, the 6-foot-6 Collinsworth will be the fifth-tallest player on the team. Collinsworth is a proven excellent rebounder for his size, grabbing 5.1 boards per game his freshman year[4].

By pure roster necessity, Rose will have to give Collinsworth minutes playing power forward. He’s the only player that could realistically play the four in small-ball situations (due to either foul trouble or matchup necessity). This isn’t necessarily a bad thing—again, Collinsworth is a great rebounder—and having a power forward who can shoot, rebound, and handle the ball at an elite level could prove devastating against certain teams. But if Rose really is adamant about playing Collinsworth minutes at the point guard spot, landing a recruit like Aytes was the way to do it.

Ultimately, this doesn’t change much of what we already expected BYU to do this season. Tyler Haws will still be the best player on the team, Matt Carlino will still need to improve his consistency, and even with Aytes the team would have expected and required big things from Eric Mika. However, this recruiting loss will make Coach Rose’s job much more difficult this coming season, as managing this shortened big-man rotation may end up a nightmare. If it keeps him up at night, I suggest he call his old friend Dave Rice.

  1. Per ESPN.com Aytes is currently listed as a three star prospect, and as the 66th best high school recurit at his position.  ↩
  2. This lineup also would have sacrificed very little in terms of size and rebounding, as both Collinsworth and Aytes are 6-foot-6 and excellent rebounders, making this hypothetical lineup an even more terrifying thought experiment.  ↩
  3. While he did show the ability to hit mid-range jumpers at an efficient rate last season, Austin’s stroke from beyond the arc was an abyssmal 20 percent a year ago.  ↩
  4. That was good enough for third on the team if you don’t count Chris Collinsworth, who averaged 5.6 rebounds in the nine games he played before blowing out his knee. His younger brother didn’t really start playing significant minutes until after Chris’s injury, making Kyle the de facto third best rebounder on the team for the majority of the season (and really the second best rebounder on the team after Brandon Davies left the squad).  ↩


  1. Gzone

    August 24, 2013 at 3:21 pm

    Austin only took 20 three pointers last year. His offensive struggles really don’t have much to do with him shooting 3s.

    Last season, when he took more than 1 three pointer in a game his percentage went up to 50%.

  2. Sanpete

    August 24, 2013 at 4:12 pm

    Aytes would have been a big help, no doubt. Any ideas on what will happen with the two remaining scholarships?

    Gzone makes an interesting point about Austin’s 3s, that perhaps he shot better when he took more than one (or it could only mean that when he made his first one he usually took another and missed). He showed a nice outside touch his freshman year, and could probably be a good 3-point shooter if he had time to work on it.

    (I wonder if by “prodigy” you mean “protege”?)

  3. The Real DSW

    August 24, 2013 at 6:22 pm

    I think Ben’s main point is merely that BYU gives up more offensively than what Austin brings to defense. And it’s not that he’s a poor defensive player; he’s a monster at the rim, and knows how to foul guys (though knowing how can get him into trouble). But his offensive game is so unpolished, is it worth having a center on the court who pretty much hangs out on the defensive end of the court for 40 minutes? That’s the dilemma Rose and Co. are going to face this year.

  4. Cosmo's Kid

    August 27, 2013 at 1:39 pm

    Jamal Aytes is now dead to me.