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BYU Basketball Mailbag: Collin Chandler, Richard Harward, Personnel, Big 12, And More

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-UCLA at BYU IndyStar-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been a great week for BYU Basketball, as they opened the season with a 10-point win over a solid Cleveland State team and landed the biggest recruiting win of the Mark Pope era by signing Collin Chandler.

This is the second mailbag of the season. 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.

Enjoy!

Please put these shady NIL conspiracies to bed. How did Chandler end up at BYU?

Utah fans on Twitter and message boards (mainly Ute Zone) ran wild with the theory this week that BYU boosters — specifically billionaire Qualtrics founder Ryan Smith — set up a NIL deals (and even alleged 6 figures!) to bring Collin Chandler to BYU.

First, let me speak to why Collin Chandler decided to come to BYU. The piece I wrote Wednesday goes into more details, but this BYU staff did an incredible job. They recruited Chandler HARD. They sold Chandler on their vision for developing him into a NBA player, connected with him and his family extremely well, and pushed the Big 12 once that became official. Collin specifically mentioned the Big 12 as a reason he wanted to come to BYU. That isn’t the number one reason he is a Cougar, but without it he likely would be a Ute right now.

As for the NIL stuff. Yeah, I’m sure coaches mentioned NIL opportunities. Why wouldn’t they? BYU players are 100% legally making money from NIL and it’s a fantastic opportunity for student-athletes to finally profit from their name, image and likeness. Utah players aren’t exactly lining up the NIL deals, and this understandably frustrates Utah fans that their rival 45 minutes south and perceived little brother is absolutely lapping them with Silicon Slopes tech money that their alumni base can’t match.

What BYU did NOT do is promise Collin any NIL deals. That is illegal. Coaches/boosters can’t promise NIL deals to a high school recruit if he/she signs with the program. So, how did this rumor start? I found two reasons.

First, remember this important lesson: When something good happens to BYU at the expense of Utah, many fans will do anything to rationalize it instead of just admitting they got beat out. False rumors, BYU cheated, scholarship issues, etc.

Second, Utah has many great reporters out there. However, some of them have reported rumors they get from Utah sources. The reporters don’t fabricate these stories themselves, they just report what they hear. Often times I think it’s disingenuous to report rumors without having proof, but here we are.

Rumors ran absolutely wild on Ute Zone — that spilled onto Twitter — that Collin Chandler was promised a 6-figure NIL deal to come to BYU, and many decided to tie that to Ryan Smith (because he is the boogeyman!).

Last year, reports surfaced that BYU hired Caleb Lohner’s dad before Caleb flipped to BYU. And guess what? That was 100% false! Matt Lohner was never hired at BYU.

The Lohner rumors started because reporters were putting out there what they heard from Utah sources. And you know what, people from Utah’s side are once again trying to undermine BYU’s recruiting efforts and spreading misinformation instead of just admitting they straight up got beat by BYU. Most lies start with some shred of truth. Sure, BYU players and coaches may have 100% legally talked about NIL opportunities BYU players are getting. That somehow turned into Ryan Smith is funneling over $100k to bring Collin to BYU with zero proof.

Speculation on Twitter heated up when the dad of a Utah player said he had “receipts” of BYU wrong doing. That led to more discussion, and Carlson later qualified that had nothing to do with Collin Chandler.

I have to no idea what Bryan is referring to. But, zero wrong doing has ever been proven by Mark Pope. And there are no receipts out there.

I talked to several people familiar with Collin’s recruitment, some of whom who have no loyalty to BYU and would have zero issues throwing BYU to the wolves. Every single person said nothing shady happened with Collin’s recruitment. He didn’t talk to Ryan Smith and he didn’t take any pre-arranged NIL deals. He loves BYU and BYU’s coaching staff. Utah has a great staff. He just likes better what BYU has to offer.

All this talk of shady dealing is just hurting Collin and his family. They grew up a Utah family. His extended family is Utah fans. And you’re really accusing him and his family of cheating? He’s a 17-year-old kid that just made an agonizing decision. I’m sure he hated telling Utah no. He loves the school and the staff. The last thing he wanted was to cause friction, but congrats Utah fans out there that ran with the false and destructive rumors, you made a kid and his family feel terrible and question the school they’ve rooted for their whole life. And sorry, you lost out on any miniscule chance you had at getting him when he comes home from his mission.

I can guarantee none of the Utah fans on Twitter or message boards have better sources than me. If you do, bring it. Because you won’t and don’t have anything. BYU did nothing wrong.

Are we going to survive Richard Harward being gone and Gavin Baxter on limited minutes?

Richard Harward is out for an indefinite amount of time with what Mark Pope described as a “cardiovascular issue.” Harward nearly collapsed on the bench during last Thursday’s exhibition. Initial thoughts were that Harward just had dehydration, but further tests showed heart issues.

Harward could be out a month, or his career could be over. They are giving him at least four weeks and will then re-evaluate. BYU will be extremely cautious. If doctors clear him and say he’s good to go, he could be back at some point. But it’s just too early to say know.

In the meantime, Fousseyni Traore will be thrust into more minutes. Fouss has great upside, and he showed out great versus Cleveland State. Baxter is still on a minutes restriction, but Fouss and Baxter will be counted on to play the lion’s share of the minutes at the 5. Atiki will have to play in some games when those two get in foul trouble or BYU plays a big opponent, and Caleb will play some 5 as well.

It’s not ideal and getting Harward back will be huge, but I think BYU will be able to manage.

Not about Chandler... But should Spencer Johnson be starting?

Spencer Johnson was BYU’s second leading scorer versus Cleveland State with 13 points. He’s a great player and important to BYU, but I don’t think you can start him over Te’Jon Lucas or Gideon George. Lucas will get up to speed and be one of BYU’s best players, and Gideon has length and rebounding ability you especially need more now with Harward out.

One needs to happen to improve our recruiting at the #4/5. Seems our recruiting has fallen, ahem, a bit short.

Richard Harward being out exposes BYU’s lack of size inside. BYU doesn’t have many bigs in the recruiting pipeline right now, but I’m confident that will be well stocked in future years. BYU can recruit good big guys with Mark Pope and Chris Burgess — they got Matt Haarms over Kentucky and Texas Tech. BYU will be active in the transfer portal and in the high school ranks. With hindsight I think coaches would’ve brought in one more big for this season, but I’m not very worried about bigs as long as Mark Pope is the coach.

How soon do you think BYU will be in competition for a Big 12 championship?

The Big 12 has been the best basketball league for the last few years. And they’ll still be really good once the new four join and OU and Texas leave. Kansas has owned the Big 12 for years, and Baylor just won the national championship. That doesn’t include Texas Tech that recently appeared in the national championship, Oklahoma State who just had Cade Cunningham go number one, and the many other great programs.

BYU may not win the Big 12 for the next 20 year. And you know what? That’s ok. BYU will be able to bring in the best talent they’ve ever had and be better equipped to advance in the NCAA Tournament, which is really the ultimate goal.

Was your eye emoji tweet the other day really about CC, not the Florida Four?

No comment.