Yesterday, BYU basketball head coach Dave Rose mentioned in his afternoon media session that the Cougars had an international player lined up to join the program this season, until he ran into test score issues:
I asked BYU coach Dave Rose today why he doesn't recruit more international players. After asking me why I "always" ask him about it, he said they had a foreign guy lined up, "ready to go this year," but that player didn't get the required test score at BYU.— Jay Drew (@drewjay) February 21, 2018
That player is Russian forward Agasiy Tonoyan, and BYU and Agasiy are still hopeful that he will join the team next season.
Through talking with people inside BYU’s program, others who are familiar with the situation, and speaking with Tonoyan himself, here is all the information I have gathered over the past year about his potential journey to Provo.
So, who is this kid from Russia, and is he any good?
Agasiy Tonoyan is a 6-foot-8, 200-pound SF/PF from Moscow, who is 19 years old (born August 1998). He currently plays in Russia’s Youth United League for Samara’s Under 21 team. He has spent the majority of his life in Russia, but also spent a year of high school at Sunrise Christian Academy (Kansas) — a prestigious prep program that has spawned NBA players like Buddy Hield and countless other Division I collegiate prospects.
Tonoyan has been one of Russia’s top young players for years, and gained increased exposure last summer with his performance at the Adidas Eurocamp, which is considered the top camp for European prospects.
So far I've been impressed by Agasiy Tonoyan. Not scared of anything, good decision making and nice touch. #Eurocamp— Orazio Cauchi (@paxer89) June 9, 2017
Agasiy Tonoyan showing that his u18 performance probably wasn't a fluke. Nice fade away jumper and unselfish pass in transition.— mike gribanov (@mikegrib8) June 9, 2017
Others that stood out: Luka Bozic, Agasiy Tonoyan, James Birsen, Egemen Guven, Amar Gegic— mike gribanov (@mikegrib8) June 9, 2017
SF/PF Agasiy Tonoyan doing work at Treviso Eurocamp. (via @olegfokin) pic.twitter.com/ZVhvA0Hekk— Alexander Chernykh (@chernykh) June 9, 2017
After his big performance at Eurocamp, Agasiy was ready to come to BYU and be the top NBA prospect on BYU’s team.
What is Tonoyan’s connection to BYU, and why isn’t he playing at BYU now?
I’m not 100 percent sure how BYU found Tonoyan, but from the pieces I’ve put together, Heath Schroyer has some international connections that made BYU aware of Tonoyan. Former BYU guard Travis Hansen, who played in Russia, is also familiar with Agasiy. Tonoyan is not LDS.
Tonoyan first visited BYU last May, as seen in this Instagram post of his, on which you can see that the location is the SLC airport:
He also posted a photo of that same May trip just last month on his Instagram:
BYU extended a scholarship offer on that visit and Tonoyan accepted; the holdup, however, would be his transcripts, as Rose suggested in his comments Tuesday. Tonoyan heard back from the NCAA in early June that his transcripts had been denied and that he wouldn’t be eligible to play at BYU this season.
Looking back, it was his TOEFL score (English language proficiency for non-native English language speakers) that was the biggest holdup. Garrett McClintock, who is a contributor at cougarnation.com and fluent in Russian, was told by Tonoyan that he didn’t get a high enough score on the TOEFL exam to get into BYU.
Here is an interview with Tonoyan from July. As you can tell, his English is still very much developing:
Will Tonoyan Play at BYU, and how much would he help?
Tonoyan still wants to play at BYU, and BYU still wants Tonoyan. I received a text January 14 from a source inside the program who said that the Cougars are still “in communication for sure” with Tonoyan and hope to have him as part of the program starting next season. If Tonoyan can pass his TOEFL (and that’s a big if), then he will likely be in a Cougar uniform for the 2018-2019 season.
If Tonoyan were to join BYU, I am confident that he would be an all-conference player. While he is still a little raw, he would be the most versatile player on BYU’s team. With his 6-foot-8 frame, Tonoyan has the skillset to play on the wing or line up as a stretch 4 for BYU who can also play on the block. BYU rarely gets players with the versatility of Tonoyan, and he would be a huge boost to the team if could make it to Provo.
In the meantime, here’s to hoping he can get his TOEFL score up so we can see the next (first?) great Russian player at BYU.
You can view highlights from Tonoyan below: