On Friday night, the Smith Fieldhouse on the campus of BYU was home to the inaugural "Boom Shakalaka: The BYU Basketball Showcase." The event was basically a souped-up version of the basketball tipoff events that the team puts on just before the start of each new season.
This year's showcase featured three main events. First was a three-point contest amongst a majority of the members of the team. Then came an overall skills challenge featuring four teams comprised of a member of the men's basketball team, a member of the school's women's basketball team and a student of the school. The night concluded with a dunk contest between four players.
While the event was obviously not a place for scouting the team, there were some insights to be gained from how certain players performed during the challenges. Let's take a look at five such insights.
Part of Dave Rose's fast-paced offensive strategy has always been a heavy use of three-pointers. While BYU's stars have long been expected to be able to shoot the three, the team has also long utilized a three-point specialist who could consistently down the trey.
In Coach Rose's early years with the team, his nephew Mike Rose fulfilled that role, setting the BYU single-game record for three-pointers made and finishing second all-time at BYU in successful three-pointers.
Since then, a number of players have fulfilled that role. The last couple seasons, Brock Zylstra and Craig Cusick were the three-point specialists, but their results were mixed. While they each had several big games shooting the three, each also struggled with consistency.
With both Zylstra and Cusick gone, the Cougars are in need of a player to step up and consistently knock down the three-point attempts that will inevitably come as teams devote special attention to Tyler Haws and Matt Carlino.
At Boom Shakalaka, the winner of the three-point contest was JUCO transfer Skyler Halford, the MVP of a Salt Lake Community College team that ranked sixth in the nation last year.
Although Halford started off slow, once he got into a rhythm he was on fire from the three-point line. It appeared to just come naturally to him.
While Halford will need to improve his consistency, he certainly has the natural ability to be the go-to three-point specialist that the Cougars could really use.
The former UCLA transfer has both delighted and frustrated Cougar fans during his time in Provo. While his natural abilities were obvious to Cougar fans, he also suffered from inconsistency.
When he was on, he was nearly unstoppable. But when he was struggling, well, he was an absolute turnover machine.
It appeared in past seasons that Carlino would sometimes lose focus and try to rely too much on natural ability.
In the skills challenge Friday night, Carlino appeared to have solved those focus issues. His team completed the skills challenge over 15 seconds faster than the other three teams, and Carlino moved with a sharp focus that appeared natural to him.
While it was obvious that Tyler Haws was just casually approaching the challenge (as he repeatedly missed a 10-foot jumper that is second nature to him at this point in his career), Carlino seemed to be dialed in.
While it's just a meaningless skills challenge, the fact that Carlino obviously had his head in the game is a promising sight for Cougar fans.
After returning home from his two-year LDS mission to Russia earlier this year, Collinsworth set about getting back in basketball shape. "Mission legs" are always a concern for LDS athletes returning from their missions, as they spent two years away from the specific physical training regimen that collegiate athletes partake in.
In both the skills challenge and the dunk contest, Collinsworth appeared to get gassed easily. He was unable to complete his second dunk, as his vertical decreased rapidly over the course of just a few attempts.
While BYU is more experienced than any team in the country at working off the "mission legs," it is obvious that Collinsworth's stamina is still a work in progress. How long it will take to get him back into peak physical condition remains to be seen.
The two finalists for the dunk contest were true freshmen roommates Eric Mika and Frank Bartley. They were the obvious choices to advance to the final round, not only throwing down the best dunks of the night, but also doing it with a confidence that belies their years.
While Mika is a center and Bartley is a guard, both showcased exceptional athleticism. Bartley jumped over the 6'10" Mika for one of his dunks, while Mika caught a pass off the back off the backboard from Tyler Haws in midair and threw down a jam whilst coming from behind the basket.
With athleticism and confidence at levels unexpected from a pair of 18-year-olds, Mika and Bartley could have a very profound impact on the court for the Cougars this season.
Tyler Haws came back from his mission last season and absolutely tore up the court. He finished as one of the top 10 scorers in the country in his first year back. Entering his junior season, expectations are high for Haws.
At Boom Shakalaka, it was quite evident that Haws is the heart and soul of this team. When his teammates would have a big moment during one of the challenges, Haws was often one of the first to celebrate with them.
On multiple occasions, Eric Mika utilized Haws as his go-to passer, despite the fact that the team's leading passer is and has been Carlino, not Haws.
It become quite evident Friday night that Haws is the true leader of this team. While there are three co-captains for the Cougars this season, Haws is the one that truly makes this team go.