Brock Zylstra and Craig Cusick are the consummate examples of what a BYU basketball player should look like. Both are devout Mormons; serving missions for the Church of Latter-Day Saints, team captains, and great basketball players. Unfortunately for Dave Rose and the BYU program, these two are departing due to graduation. Here is a look back on the careers of Craig Cusick and Brock Zylstra.
Just hours before a game between in-state rival Utah State, Cusick learned that his father, Randy Cusick, had been diagnosed with cancer. His father collapsed on the previous Sunday, was rushed to a hospital, and a cancerous tumor was found on Tuesday afternoon. Even though the news was likely set back Cusick a great deal, he still had the audacity to walk out on to the floor of the Mariott Center and play a basketball game in front of tens of thousands of fans.
It was a tie game with little time left and BYU had the ball. Coach Dave Rose drew up a play to get guard Matt Carlino into the key to get an easy look at the basket. Carlino ended up taking a three instead, which fell short. Much to the elation of the Cougars, Craig Cusick was there to coral the offensive rebound and put in the winning basket with less than a second left to go. All of this transpired in the wake of Cusick learning that his father had cancer, just a short time before.
However, this moment could not have been possible without a convoluted path that Cusick endured before coming to BYU. Cusick spent his first season of college basketball at Utah, where he was a red shirt, non-scholarship player. He then left Utah after taking his two year mission. He ultimately ended up playing for Salt Lake Community College in his freshman and sophomore years of eligibility, where he averaged 4.9 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 2.1 assists per game. He then was admitted to BYU, where he planned on majoring in accounting. However, he did not give up on his dream of playing division one college basketball.
In a traditional walk-on try out, where the players are put through drills in front of the coaches in hopes of making the team, Cusick stood out. Rose invited him to the practice squad, where Cusick helped prepare former Cougar greats Jimmer Freddette and Jackson Emery for upcoming games.
Unlike most walk-ons, Rose invited Cusick back to the team for the following season. He ended up playing an integral part of the Cougars team in the following years.
Cusick averaged 3.5 points, 1.9 rebounds, and 2.1 assists per game while playing in a sixth man role for the Cougars. He was well known for having extremely quick hands on defense and creating a lot of steals. A good testament to that would be that Cusick had 19 games where he recorded 2 or more steals. During his senior year, Cusick was extremely efficient from the three-point line; he shot .667 from behind the arc during league play.
Like Cusick, Brock Zylstra came to BYU as a walk-on. But unlike Cusick, Zylstra came to Provo as a preferred walk-on.
Zylstra hails from Bonita High School in La Verne, California, where he had a very successful career. He averaged 22 points, 12 rebounds, 3 steals, and 1 block per game in his senior year of high school, and was named to the first team all-CIF in both his senior and junior years. His jersey now hangs in the rafters in his high school gym after it was retired after the 2005-2006 season. In addition to being a fantastic basketball player, Zylstra was a phenomenal golfer as well; he was named all-league in golf twice through the duration of his high school sports career.
Zylstra redshirted his true freshman year and followed that up by serving a mission in New Zealand. By the time the 2009-2010 season rolled around, Zylstra had four whole years of eligibility left. He played sparingly in his freshman and sophomore seasons, but his career really started to take off once he was a junior. Out of the 34 games that BYU played that season, Zylstra started 28 of them. He averaged 8.3 points, 4.3 rebounds, 2.1 assists, and 1.2 steals per game in his junior season. This increase in production named him BYU’s most improved player for that season.
Senior year came around and Zylstra was poised for another great season. He did not disappoint. Just like Cusick, he was named a team captain. He averaged 7.4 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 2.0 assists per game in his final season as a Cougar. His signature game at BYU came against Southern Mississippi in the quarterfinals of the NIT, where he recorded a double-double (23 points and 10 rebounds). This performance was a large part of why the Cougars were able to advance to the semi-finals of the NIT this season.
BYU is not only losing two great players, but two great people in Cusick and Zylstra. Their talent, leadership, and their commitment to team success are just a few aspects as too why they will be sorely missed at BYU. Congratulations on fantastic careers, Brock Zylstra and Craig Cusick!