The BYU men’s basketball program has extended scholarship offers to three top players at nearby prep powerhouse Wasatch Academy, according to a source familiar with the players’ recruitment.
Nationally ranked, four-star big man Mady Sissoko, former Riverton standout guard Richie Saunders and Brazilian slasher Leonardo Colimerio are all being hotly pursued by Coach Dave Rose’s staff over the past year. In addition to being teammates at Wasatch (along with 2019 BYU commit Bernardo Da Silva), the trio also play together on the Utah Mountain Stars AAU team, coached by BYU legend Marty Haws.
All three players have received significant interest from several high-major programs, but sources say BYU remains firmly in the mix with a solid chance to land each.
Landing any of the three prospects would be a coup for BYU and, along with Da Silva’s commitment, could signal the opening of a valuable pipeline to Wasatch Academy’s trove of top talent that had previously been unavailable to the Cougars, despite the Mount Pleasant school’s proximity to Provo.
For those unfamiliar with the program’s ascension, Wasatch Academy has become one of the premier prep basketball programs in the country over the last decade. Under the direction of the late Geno Morgan and his successor Curtis Condie, the Tigers have lured top talent from across the globe to their tiny Utah town with the promise of playing a national schedule that will pit them against the nation’s best teams.
The formula has worked, with former Wasatch players like Arizona’s Emmanuel Akot and Marquette’s Koby McEwen landing at big-time schools, and the program ascending the national rankings. (Wasatch Academy is currently ranked 10th in the preseason FAB 50 national team rankings.)
However, despite this abundance of prime prospects stationed less than an hour from campus, BYU has never had much luck pulling players from the program. Sources within the Utah prep hoops scene say much of this could be attributed to Condie’s personal distaste for the school. (He was once quoted as saying, “I went to Utah State; I obey rules. I didn’t go to BYU.”) But regardless of the reason, there’s no question that Rose and his staff have failed to make in-roads at Wasatch.
Until now. With Da Silva already signed as part of their 2019 class, and the potential to add up to three additional Tigers in 2020, the obvious question becomes: What changed? Well, the coaching staff, for one. Condie recently left the school to take a college coaching job at Utah State Eastern, with former Lone Peak High School coach (and well-known Rose ally) David Evans taking over as the head man at Wasatch.
Recruiting is so often about not just connecting with the players, but also the trusted family members and advisors they surround themselves with — including their coaches. With BYU-friendly voices like Evans and Haws now helming these prospects’ high school and AAU teams, respectively, it’s not hard to imagine how the Cougars might finally be finding a more sympathetic ear than in years past.
Of course, we’re engaging in some (informed) speculation here. And we shouldn’t discount the personal relationships that Rose and his assistants have undoubtedly spent a lot of time building with these individual recruits, because those are usually among the most crucial elements in a player’s final decision. But it certainly can’t hurt to have a little bit more access to help you start building those relationships in the first place.
Whatever the reason, let’s take a closer look at each of these newest Cougar prospects — complete with thoughts on their individual strengths from one of the people who may know their games best: their AAU coach Marty Haws.
Sissoko is a 6-foot-9 center with incredible athleticism (just watch the video below) and a sky-high ceiling. Originally hailing from Mali, he has already established himself as one of the top recruits in the class of 2020, despite only playing organized basketball for two years. College coaches are drooling over what he could become with more coaching and game experience — and that’s why he’s a consensus four-star prospect.
National Rankings: Sissoko is ranked 38th by 247 Sports, 47th by ESPN, and 79th by Rivals in the class of 2020.
Offers: Sissoko holds a ton of offers, including from high-major programs like Arizona, Gonzaga, Texas Tech, Colorado, Utah, Oregon State and among many others.
Coach Haws’ Take: “Mady has Elite Athleticism and is a high level Rim Protector. He has a VERY High Ceiling. Mady is still learning the game of basketball. I am confident he will continue to improve offensively.”
Saunders is a 6-foot-4 sharpshooting guard who can score from everywhere. He is a new arrival at Wasatch Academy, having transferred from Riverton where he garnered 6A first team all-state honors last season as a sophomore. He averaged 18.8 points per game and hit his fair share of clutch shots to lift his team to victory. “Whatever his team needs, he seems to provide it,” an opposing coach told the Deseret News. “With opposing defenses draped all over him, he continually hits big shot after big shot when his team needs it most.”
Offers: Saunders holds offers from Butler, Princeton and Texas Tech, among others.
Coach Haws’ Take: “Richie is a very good shooter and a consistent scorer. He is also a really good finisher in transition. Richie can score at all three levels. He possesses a special mid-range game. He can really stuff the stat sheet.”
Colimerio is a 6-foot-6 wing player who excels using his length and athleticism slashing to the rim in transition — which would seem to be a particularly good fit for BYU’s brand of basketball. Like his Wasatch teammate and current Cougar signee Da Silva, Leo hails from Brazil. He’s only been in the U.S. for one year, and he recently told PrepHoops.com that it’s been a bit of a transition, both on and off the court. However, he seems to have adjusted fine. “I played pick-up at BYU and the coach told me he liked my game,” he said.
National Rankings: Colimerio is ranked 78th by 247 Sports and 105th by Rivals in the class of 2020.
Offers: Colimerio holds an offer from Colorado, and has received interest from Utah, Oregon State, UVU and Seattle.
Coach Haws’ Take: “Leo plays a slasher style of basketball. He is a really good finisher in transition. Leo can guard multiple positions. He is a great teammate and a much-improved shooter.”