BYU has four starters back from an 18-14 team. Or is it two starters back from a 20-11 team? Well, both, actually. Mike Smith and Jim Usevitch, a pair of 6'9" starters on the 1983-84 team that went 20-11, are back from Mormon missions. Three other player-missionaries are also back to form a BYU team that has the most height, talent and depth since Danny Ainge led the Cougars to the NCAA final eight in 1981.
BYU football has long made use of athletes returning from missions, but they've made less of an impact in hoops. Until now. Ten of 11 returning Cougars are mission alums. Bobby Capener, a 6'4" senior, played only 31 minutes in '82-83, then spent two years amid student riots and street gunfire in Chile. "My mission also gave me time to analyze my game," he says. "When I came back I tailored it to my strengths." He averaged 14.9 points per game last season, but the three-point line is tailor-made for him, and his scoring should soar. Smith, who led BYU in rebounding as a freshman, healed his sore knees in Argentina, and Usevitch supplemented his hoops in New Zealand with some cricket and touch rugby.
Now all these players are on the same mission: to win a few for BYU.