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BYU Hoops Mailbag: Starting 5, Collin Chandler, Cal Scrimmage, and More

UCLA v BYU Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

We’ll get our first chance to see the BYU Men’s Basketball team in action this Friday night during the blue-white scrimmage at 7pm MT. It will be broadcast on BYUtv and is open to the public. Admission is free.

The scrimmage precedes an exhibition versus Colorado Christian November 4 before the season opener November 9 versus Cleveland State in the Marriott Center.

I’ll be doing a weekly basketball mailbag during the season where I answer your questions. You can tweet at me (@rtmccombs) or email me at robmccombs@gmail.com and I will answer as many of your questions as I can.

Below is the first iteration — enjoy!

How did Collin Chandler weekend go with Midnight Madness? Gotta believe environment, passion, excitement will make him think 2x about Y versus school of his fam preference. At least make it difficult.

I got a few questions about 4-star guard Collin Chandler. As I reported last week, Chandler visited BYU this weekend for an official visit. He started his visit Friday night where he attended the BYU Women’s Volleyball game and Midnight Madness.

I talked to two sources and they both told me the visit went “really well” and that BYU gave Collin a lot to think about. BYU’s inclusion in the Big 12 has made BYU a real player for Collin. Just a month ago, Collin wasn’t planning on taking an official visit to BYU. He scrapped an Arizona visit and took his second to last visit to BYU. Collin has taken official visits to Utah State, Stanford, Oregon, BYU, and Utah this upcoming weekend. Recruits are allowed only 5 official visits.

Collin has already ruled out Gonzaga and Utah State wasn’t in his top 6, so you can safely assume the final four schools are Stanford, Oregon, BYU, and Utah. I would’ve told you a month plus ago that Stanford and Utah were the clear favorites, but all indications are that this is down to BYU and Utah. The Utes are still the favorite and I think he will end up there, but BYU made enough of an impression over the weekend that Collin will really have to think about his decision. BYU isn’t out of this yet. Collin’s dad told me that he expects Collin to make his decision the first week of November.

What happened in the secret scrimmage vs Cal?

I had a few people ask me about the closed-door scrimmage at Cal on October 16 that I reported earlier this month. These scrimmages are commonplace in college basketball, but schools are not allowed to release any details or broadcast the scrimmage, so details can be difficult to come by.

Two different sources told me that BYU did well and took care of Cal handily. The scrimmage was not a full game, but BYU was clearly the better team over the Pac-12 bottom feeder. Alex Barcello and Te’Jon Lucas are an experienced backcourt and will cause problems for a lot of teams.

Who do you expect the starting 5 to be?

BYU is deep and will play a lot of different lineups. As far as the starting lineup goes, Barcello, Lucas, and Lohner are locks to start, and you can safely pencil Richard Harward at the five. The last spot really comes down to Gideon George and Seneca Knight, and I expect George to get the nod to start the year. That gives you a starting 5 of Alex Barcello, Te’Jon Lucas, Gideon George, Caleb Lohner, and Richard Hardward. — 4 seniors and one sophomore.

Health status of Baxter? What kind of impact can we expect from Fouss and/or Atiki? Do Lohner and/or Gideon George look ready to make significant steps forward this year?

Coaches are being cautious with Baxter, but he is practicing and ready to go for the season opener. I expect coaches to be cautious with his minutes to start out as he recovers from a major knee injury, but his length and athleticism will make him a key piece on this team. As far as freshmen Fousseyni Traore and Atiki Ally Atiki, I expect Fouss to make a bigger impact year one. He is an undersized big at 6-foot-6, but he is thick, long and very skilled for a freshman. I’ve heard Yoeli Childs as a comparison. Atiki is a physical freak, but I think he’s a year away from being a consistent rotational piece.

And as far as Gideon George, I’ve heard people inside the program rave about Gideon George. He is my breakout candidate for this year, and he was a good player last year. I’ve had people tell me he is BYU’s best NBA prospect. He’s 6-foot-6 and has a 7-foot-2 wingspan and is really learning getting a good feel for the game. He participated in Nigeria’s Olympic training camp this summer and received high praise from NBA coach Mike Brown.

Don’t be surprised to see Gideon get All-WCC honors this season and get looks from NBA teams.

This team is deep at every position except for maybe the 1. I know everyone will get a shot for PT, but I Gotta think Hunter Erickson gets some legit minutes as the ball handler this year backing up Lucas right?

I am a Hunter Erickson fan. He was buried on the bench last season off his mission, but he was a big scorer in high school and can really jump. He’s probably the 10th or 11th guy in BYU’s rotation right now and behind Spencer Johnson in the back up point guard duties, but he’ll find his way on the floor and play meaningful minutes.

Did Jesse Wade transfer or hang em up?

Jesse Wade retired from basketball and is focusing on school.

How deep do you think the rotation goes?

BYU has 17 players on the roster — 14 scholarship guys and 3 walk ons. BYU will go with at least a 9-man rotation — Alex Barcello, Te’Jon Lucas, Gideon George, Caleb Lohner, Richard Harward, Seneca Knight, Trevin Knell, Spencer Johnson, and Gavin Baxter will all play. Foussyeni Traore and Hunter Erickson are my two wild cards. I think Traore will play some depending on the opponents and BYU foul trouble. However, BYU has been training Caleb Lohner to play the 5 some, and I think they will lean that way more rather than brining in Traore as the third big. Playing Lohner at the 5 will allow BYU to get more of those talented wings/guards on the floor at the same time and get the 5 best players on the floor most often.

What is the main difference between this year’s team and last? Are we more versatile, athletic, etc? And who adds those traits to the team?

I view this team as a hybrid between Pope’s first two teams. The first team was very skilled and had all-timers in Yoeli Childs, TJ Haws, and Jake Toolson. They weren’t very deep, however, and didn’t have much size either. Last year’s team didn’t have the same skill level, but they were big and deep.

This year’s team isn’t as big as last year’s team and doesn’t have quite the high-end talent as the 2019-2020 squad, but they have more length than both of those teams and have more skill than last year’s team and more depth than the first team. Brandon Averette was second team All-WCC, but I believe Te’Jon Lucas is an upgrade and Seneca Knight gives you a new piece that you didn’t have last year with a big, versatile wing that can create his own shot. Combine that with the development of Gideon George and Caleb Lohner and this team has the pieces to be really good.