Prized trio from same high school fi­nally to­gether at BYU

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BYU coach Dave Rose has been wait­ing for this mo­ment for four years. The pro­gram struck re­cruit­ing gold when it landed the ma­jor pieces from the 2012-13 Lone Peak High School na­tional cham­pi­onship team four-star re­cruits Nick Emery, Eric Mika and T.J. Haws. But then the chal­lenges of re­cruit­ing to BYU kicked in and all three went on Mor­mon church mis­sions at dif­fer­ent times.

That left Rose wait­ing for this sea­son, hop­ing none of them changed their minds and try­ing to re­cruit other elite play­ers who knew the Lone Peak trio would be re­turn­ing. The crew is fi­nally in Provo to­gether, start­ing for the Cougars and fac­ing high ex­pec­ta­tions af­ter years of an­tic­i­pa­tion. “Our pa­tience has paid off,” Rose said. “Some­times you won­der if you made the right de­ci­sions in your re­cruit­ing process, but I’m glad we got all three of these guys. That’s the whole process at BYU. You worry about it un­til you get them here.”

Lone Peak, which is 30 min­utes from the BYU cam­pus, has won eight state ti­tles since 2001 and won a na­tional ti­tle in 2012-13 with Emery, Mika and Haws. The three also played AAU to­gether and trav­eled the coun­try. Emery and Haws had been play­ing to­gether well be­fore high school and the two guards com­mit­ted on the same day when Emery was a ju­nior and Haws a sopho­more. Haws’ older brother Tyler is BYU’s ca­reer lead­ing scorer and Emery’s older brother, Jack­son, is the Cougars’ all-time steals leader. Mika trans­ferred into Lone Peak and the power for­ward com­mit­ted later.

“It was def­i­nitely a process for sure,” Emery said. “We had our dreams and as­pi­ra­tions of where we wanted to play, but ul­ti­mately we just wanted to play with each other. And find a good school that fits within what we do of­fen­sively.” The plan may have been laid out years ago, but all par­ties had to be pa­tient.

Mika was a se­nior on the na­tional cham­pi­onship team, then av­er­aged 11.8 points and 6.4 re­bounds as a BYU fresh­man in 2013-14. He served a two-year mis­sion in Spain af­ter his fresh­man sea­son and re­turned in late April. Mika now leads the team in scor­ing and re­bound­ing. Emery served his mis­sion in Ger­many straight out of high school and was All-West Coast Con­fer­ence sec­ond team as a fresh­man last year af­ter av­er­ag­ing 16.3 points per game and set­ting sev­eral BYU fresh­man records. He won three state ti­tles in high school.

Haws won four ti­tles at Lone Peak then im­me­di­ately served his mis­sion in France. He is av­er­ag­ing 12.5 points as a fresh­man, BYU’s third-lead­ing scorer be­hind Mika (20.5 points) and Emery (16.0). The three are the head­lin­ers, but Rose also hired their high school coach Quincy Lewis as an as­sis­tant last year. BYU fresh­man Zach Framp­ton was also on those Lone Peak teams, and was a se­nior in 2013-14 be­fore serv­ing a mis­sion in Chile.

“This is an op­por­tu­nity, for me, that I never re­ally planned on,” Lewis said. “It is neat to see those guys again and guys I never thought I’d re­ally coach again. You rem­i­nisce be­cause you’re like old friends.” The an­tic­i­pa­tion of hav­ing this group to­gether wasn’t just a feel-good story of high school bud­dies play­ing to­gether. There are high ex­pec­ta­tions to win big af­ter miss­ing the NCAA Tour­na­ment last sea­son. This sea­son is off to a roller coaster start, with BYU win­ning four straight at the be­gin­ning then los­ing three of four, in­clud­ing an up­set loss to Utah Val­ley. The Cougars are now 9-4.

“There’s an ex­cite­ment around this team from the out­side, def­i­nitely, but also from within with this group of guys,” Mika said. “There’s an ex­cite­ment, an at­mos­phere and cul­ture that we’re cre­at­ing that I don’t think there’s ever been . ... It’s more ex­cit­ing than just any reg­u­lar sea­son be­cause we’ve been wait­ing for it for a long time.

“With all the quote-un­quote pres­sure there is to per­form well this year, if we can just stay within our­selves and not worry about the out­side and worry about per­form­ing to the level that peo­ple think we should, and put that pres­sure on our­selves . ... It’s def­i­nitely there and we can’t just com­pletely ig­nore it, but if we just play hard and play like we prac­tice, then we’ll be all right.”

The Cougars ros­ter is stocked over­all with new­com­ers, with Kyle Davis and L.J. Rose the lone se­niors. Trans­fer Eli­jah Bryant was the Colo­nial Ath­letic As­so­ci­a­tion Rookie of the Year in 201415 and Rose trans­ferred in af­ter stops at Bay­lor and Hous­ton. Since the Lone Peak trio has played ex­ten­sively with each other, the hope is that it will ex­pe­dite the growth of the en­tire team. “In high school, Nick and I were com­ple­ments of each other,” Haws said. “I felt like we re­ally made each other bet­ter, as well as Eric. Right when we got back to­gether, it was kind of like, ‘OK, it’s here. Let’s do this thing.’” — AP

PROVO: In this Dec. 22, 2016 file photo, BYU guard Nick Emery (4) cel­e­brates a 3-pointer against Cal State Bak­ers­field dur­ing an NCAA col­lege bas­ket­ball game in Provo, Utah. —AP

STOCK­TON: In this Feb. 13, 2014 file photo, BYU’s T.J. Haws (3) lays up a shot over Pa­cific’s T.J. Wal­lace (2) in the first half of an NCAA col­lege bas­ket­ball game in Stock­ton, Calif. —AP

CHICAGO: In this Dec. 17, 2016 file photo, BYU for­ward Eric Mika re­acts af­ter a foul dur­ing the sec­ond half of an NCAA col­lege bas­ket­ball game against Illi­nois in Chicago. — AP

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