SAN DIEGO — Mission accomplished.
That sure makes Brigham Young University basketball Coach Ladell Anderson happy.
Five of the seven BYU basketball players who left on missions two years ago have returned to play for Anderson this season.
"When those guys left, I told them I hope I'll be here when they get back," Anderson said. "I had to suffer through it. By now we'll be OK."
After 15-14 and 18-14 seasons, the Cougars are expected to be more than OK this season. BYU returns four starters and has the five returning missionaries, four of whom have played for Anderson and all of whom are 22 to 24 years old.
"I have more depth than I've ever had in the four years I've been here," Anderson said. "We have better shooters. The league is better, but I think our team will be in the thick of things."
The Western Athletic Conference season is expected to be a race between the Cougars, league champion Wyoming and Texas El Paso.
"BYU has a better team than they've ever had before," said San Diego State Coach Smokey Gaines, who thinks his young team will finish sixth or seventh.
BYU's use of missionaries in sports has been a source of controversy throughout the league for years. This year, 10 of the top 12 players on the BYU basketball team are returning missionaries.
"I think it's unfair to have someone 24 years old playing," Gaines said. "Twenty-four years old. But there's nothing you can do about it. Nothing." United States Air Force Academy
Last season's record: 3-13, 10-19.
Coach: Reggie Minton (18-39).
Top returnees: Eric Kjome (6-7, 195, So.), Michael Lockwood (6-6, 205, So.).
Top newcomers: Jeff Bowling (5-11, 170, Fr.), Ray Dudley (6-0, 165, Fr.).
Outlook: The Falcons lost their two leading scorers and rebounders in forwards Maurice McDonald (who averaged 13.0 points, 6.6 rebounds) and Jim Gulsvig (9.1, 5.5). In the backcourt, Minton is counting on newcomers Bowling (14.0 points, 6.0 assists at Air Force Academy Prep School) and Dudley (24.0 points, 8.0 rebounds, 4.0 assists at Warner Robins in Warner Robins, Ga.). Brigham Young
Last season's record: 11-5, 18-14.
Coach: Ladell Anderson (53-39).
Top returnees: Bob Capener (6-4, 185, Sr.), Jeff Chatman (6-6, 205, Jr.), Tom Gneiting (6-10, 220, Sr.), Brent Stephenson (6-9, 200, Sr.). Players returning from missions: Michael Smith (6-10, 205, So.), Jim Usevitch (6-9, 225, Jr.), Brian Taylor (6-5, 185, Jr.), Alan Astle (6-6, 190, So.), Marty Haws (6-2, 160, Fr., Redshirt).
Top newcomers: Nathan Call (6-0, 180, Fr.), Todd Gentry (6-5, 170, Fr.).
Outlook: The Cougars have four starters returning and five players returning from church missions. That's the most to return to the BYU basketball team at one time. Guard Richie Webb, the only starter who is gone, will be replaced by Taylor. Chatman, a starting forward, is the conference's leading returning scorer with a 17.5 average. Colorado State
Last season's record: 6-10, 11-18.
Coach: Tony McAndrews (67-104).
Top returnees: David Turcotte (6-3, 210, Jr.), Pat Durham (6-8, 210, So.).
Top newcomers: Scott Mabey (6-9, 235, Jr.), Max Nicholson (6-9, 210, Jr.), Paul Rademaker (6-11, 230, Fr.).
Outlook: The team must replace Rich Strong, its leading scorer with a 16.9 average and the conference's leading rebounder with a 7.6 average last year. McAndrews is counting on Rademaker and junior college transfers Mabey and Nicholson to contribute immediately. Rademaker averaged 21.0 points and 13.5 rebounds and had a school-record 77% field-goal percentage at Kemberly High in Combined Lakes, Wis. Hawaii
Last season's record: 1-15, 4-24.
Coach: Frank Arnold (4-24).
Top returnees: Jerald Wrightsil (6-4, 175, Sr.), Rick Domonkos (6-8, 195, Sr.).
Top newcomers: Jamie Weaver (6-5, 200, Jr.), Chris Gaines (6-5, 180, Fr.), Alan Andrus (6-7, 205, Jr.), Bill Holcumb (6-10, 210, Jr.), Peter Martin (6-11, 215, Fr.), Moritz Kleine-Bockhoff (6-5, 210, Fr.), Jeff Lucas (6-3, 165, Fr.), Craig Murray (6-0, 160, Fr.).
Outlook: Arnold brought in eight new players this season, including five freshmen. Andrus (21.4 points, 9.5 rebounds at Utah Technical College) and Holcumb (15.0, 6.8 at Louisberg College in North Carolina) are scheduled to start. Weaver, who lettered for two seasons at the University of Houston and sat out last season, is expected to start at guard after he becomes eligible Dec. 23. Recruits include Kleine-Bockhoff of West Germany and Martin of Auckland, New Zealand, both of whom are expected to see limited playing time. New Mexico
Last season's record: 8-8, 17-14.
Coach: Gary Colson (99-82).
Top returnees: Kelvin Scarborough (6-1, 170, Sr.), Kelly Graves (6-6, 190, Sr.), Hunter Greene (6-7, 185 Jr.).
Top newcomers: George Adams (6-8, 187, Jr.), Darrell McGee (6-0, 180, Fr.).