Monday, August 29, 2011 Updated: August 30, 9:18 AM ET
BYU primed for Brandon Davies' return
PROVO, Utah -- BYU basketball players and coaches say they see a different Brandon Davies, one motivated to take advantage of the second chance he's received after being reinstated following his honor-code violation.
The team returned from a 10-day, five-game trip to Greece late Thursday and learned Friday that the junior center was being reinstated.
On Monday, they saw Davies on campus for the first day of classes.
"I think he's overjoyed at having a second chance," teammate Noah Hartsock said of Davies, whose suspension near the end of the regular season came as the Cougars had climbed to No. 3 in the rankings last season. "Most players here at this school might not get that chance, but he was really excited and just really grateful for the opportunity. I think he's going to take really good care of what he has and he's going to be a great help for us this year."
BYU coach Dave Rose said he was proud of Davies for the way he handled himself after the honor-code violation was revealed, and how he responded positively to all the negative publicity as the Cougars chased a national championship.
The school does not discuss the nature of suspensions but under the honor code students are prohibited from having premarital sex and drinking alcoholic beverages, among other things.
BYU did not make Davies available for comment.
Davies, who grew up in Provo, had started 26 of 29 games for the Cougars and averaged 11.1 points and a team-leading 6.2 rebounds.
"I think he's kind of turned the corner as far as his ability to really focus and achieve things that are really important to him," Rose said. "He's always been driven, but now he has more focus in that drive."
BYU players were still a bit jet-lagged from the overseas trip that saw them beat up on a few Greek "B" league pro teams while taking a pounding from bigger, more skilled national teams from Greece and Italy.
Davies wasn't there to help out as he had not yet been reinstated. And the team is still without guard Matt Carlino, who can't play until December because of transfer rules, and forward-center Chris Collinsworth, who is still rehabbing a knee.
But players were excited about the possibilities as they gear up to play in a new conference -- the West Coast -- albeit without stars Jimmer Fredette and Jackson Emery.
They acknowledge it will have to be more of a team effort without Fredette, the national player of the year and nation's leading scorer, hitting long-range 3s and seemingly scoring at will.
But they believe they have the players to make another NCAA run after making it to the round of 16 last season en route to a 32-5 overall mark.
"It's not going to be a one-man show like last year," Hartsock said, referring to the loss of Fredette, the No. 10 overall pick in the NBA draft by Sacramento. "It will take a great team effort and Brandon's going to be a big part of that."
Seeing what they did overseas only gave them more confidence.
"This team, when we come together, we're going to be really special," swingman Charles Abouo said.
Abouo, who was asked to carry a bigger portion of the load last year without Davies, expected Davies' return but never knew for sure.
"Having him enrolled is definitely good for us and I think it's definitely good for him to be back in school and will be good for him and his future," Abouo said.
Abouo admitted the team missed Davies.
"We have lofty goals pretty much every year and don't know if we can get there without him in the equation," he said. "He's a big part of what we do and having him back with us definitely helps us."
Abouo said the suspension left Davies with plenty of time to work out on his own and think.
"It would definitely frustrate anybody in that position, but he did a good job of staying level-headed," Abouo said. "He's using it as motivation for him to come back and be better person, a better student and a better basketball player. He's definitely worked a lot on his game this summer and I think he's going to show that once the season starts."
The team cannot hold full practices until Oct. 15 but is allowed to conduct individual workouts now that school is back in session.