Published October 11, 2012
PROVO, Utah – The accents are the first hint that Brigham Young has made some pretty major changes to its roster.
Argentina's Agustin Ambrosino and Mexico's Raul Delgado are expected to be major contributors this season as is returned missionary Tyler Haws, last seen averaging in double digits as a freshman in 2010 for the Cougars.
BYU even has a guy named Ainge on the squad again, Danny's son Cooper, a freshman point guard expected to back up Matt Carlino.
What coach Dave Rose is counting on most from a team coming off its sixth straight 25-win season and as many NCAA tourney appearances is more balanced play, especially with leading scorer Noah Hartsock graduated.
"Last year we really relied on two post players to carry us through the majority of tough times," Rose said of Hartsock and Brandon Davies, who returns for his senior season as BYU's leading rebounder. "To be more consistent, there has to be balance."
That's why he put an emphasis on recruiting players who could help from the perimeter.
Delgado, who grew up in Chihuahua, Mexico, once made a dozen 3-pointers in a junior-college game for Western Nebraska Community College.
Power forward Ambrosino, who will help fill the shoes of Hartsock along with sophomore Nate Austin, shot nearly 50 percent from the field and 44 percent from beyond the arc at Salt Lake Community College last season.
Then there's Haws, who became a starter just three games into his freshman season while shooting 50 percent from the field and 37 percent from 3-point range before heading off on his church mission in the Philippines.
"We really changed the team a lot this offseason," said Carlino, a sophomore. "Tyler is a big-time player, a big-time shooter, Raul can really shoot and Augie can shoot the ball and is versatile. There are just a lot of guys who are big-time threats to score the basketball and will help our offense a lot."
Davies, meanwhile, returns as the Cougars' force inside after averaging 15.2 points, 7.7 rebounds and 1.3 blocks during the 2011-12 season, when BYU finished 26-9 overall.
"I can't wait," Davies said of getting practice started Friday. "It's been too long. This is my last shot, my senior year, so I've got to give it everything I've got."
Carlino acknowledges it will be tough replacing Hartsock, BYU's all-time shot-blocker, emotional leader and a scrappy player who consistently knocked down a short baseline jumper. The other starter who graduated was wing Charles Abouo.
"All we lost was Noah and Charles, but I don't mean it lightly," Davies said. "Those were two great players. They can't be replaced, but these new guys coming in will do nothing but help us. They can score with the best of them. There's not a guy on this team that can't shoot the ball from the outside."
Last year the Cougars shot 34 percent from 3-point range — a far cry from the days of Jimmer Fredette.
And BYU is no longer dominating the Mountain West Conference, but entering its second season in the West Coast Conference. The goal once again is to try to win the conference title.
"I'm excited to be in this league, maybe more than I was a year ago," Rose said. "Our players understand a little bit more about the quality of this league. ... The teams at the top are really terrific. We need to lay it out there and see if we can get it done."
A strong non-conference schedule should only help, with the Cougars playing in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic, a tournament that includes Georgia State, Notre Dame, Florida State and Saint Joseph's. December road games include matchups with Baylor, Iowa State and Weber State — all strong programs last season.
This time, Carlino won't have to sit out the first 10 games because of transfer rules.
"It will be a lot different having the whole season and preseason," said Carlino, who averaged 12.2 points and 4.6 assists.
The addition of perimeter shooters will allow him to be more of a true point guard, and he's added some muscle up top as coaches want him to be more forceful with his play.
BYU also returns guard Brock Zylstra and forwards Josh Sharp and Stephen Rogers. Rogers' future, however, is in question because of lingering knee problems. He had torn cartilage repaired then another scope to try to resolve persistent swelling issues. But Rose said it's a realistic possibility the injury may be such that Rogers won't be able to play this season.
Delgado already appears luckier. The 6-foot-2, 195-pound JC transfer dislocated his shooting elbow while playing basketball five weeks ago. He went for a dunk, was undercut and tried to break his fall with his arm, only to see it bend behind him.
Doctors initially said recovery would take three to four months but this week he already said he is fully recovered and only wears a brace to protect the elbow and keep it strong.
The recovery isn't much different from that game in junior college where he lit it up from 3-point territory.
"That day everything was going perfectly for me," Delgado said.