A Mountain West Conference Player of the Year candidate, Mark Bigelow is one of four returning starters and seven seniors on the Cougars' 2003-04 team. (Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo)
Returning four starters and 10 lettermen from last year's 23-9 conference co-championship squad and adding several heralded newcomers, the 2003-04 BYU men's basketball team has the talent to claim another Mountain West Conference title and earn its third NCAA tournament invite in the last four years.
This year's team has the potential to make some noise in the NCAA tournament. NBA prospect Rafael Araujo (12.0 ppg, 8.9 rpg) and All-MWC forward Mark Bigelow (13.9 ppg, 3.7 rpg) highlight an experienced class of seven seniors that also includes starting point guard Kevin Woodberry.
In addition to key players such as honorable mention All-MWC forward Jared Jensen and reserves Ricky Bower and Jake Shoff, several newcomers should play a big role in the Marriott Center this season. Junior swingman Mike Hall, a strong, athletic junior college All-American; redshirt freshman forward Garner Meads, a high school McDonald's All-American; redshirt freshman point guard Austin Ainge; and sharpshooting freshman guard Michael Rose all have the talent to make an impact in their first seasons on the floor.
BYU coach Steve Cleveland, the 2003 MWC Coach of the Year, will have the chance to give his team some early practice and game experience this summer when all but Rose, Hall and Derek Dawes (a 6-11 sophomore center who will redshirt in 2003-04 once he returns from a two-year LDS Church mission later this summer) will be on the roster for the team's August 9-21 tour of Australia.