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BYU Basketball Mailbag: Undefeated Start, 3-Point Shooting, Big Men, Recruiting, and More

NCAA Basketball: Brigham Young at Utah Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

BYU Basketball is entering uncharted territory after a 6-0 start rocketed up to #12 in the AP Poll and the radar of national pundits.

BYU has solid wins over San Diego State, Oregon and Utah, but still has things to improve on if they want to have a truly special season. They gear up for two road tests this week at UVU and Missouri State.

I answer some of the questions you had below about this team.

Will the 3 point shooting improve?

BYU has done a lot of great things to start the season — defense, rebounding, protecting the ball, owing the paint, to name a few — but the three-point shooting has been an obvious weakness. Alex Barcello, Spencer Johnson and Te’Jon Lucas are the only three guys that have been able to hit the long ball with any sort of consistency. Trevin Knell is 5-22 after being one of the best shooters in the country last season, Caleb Lohner is 0-9, Gideon George is 2-14, and Seneca Knight is 1-11. Those are all bad percentages!

Trevin Knell I fully expect to turn that around — he was 32nd nationally last season by shooting a blistering 45%. He’ll hit shots and be just fine.

The other three players do other things really well — namely defense and rebounding — but have struggled with their shot. Lohner had a similar start last year when he started 0-13, but he became one of the best shooters in the WCC when he shot 15-30 in conference play. So Caleb has shown the ability to hit shots, he just needs to start doing it. If he does that, he’ll continue to prove why he was a Preseason All-Conference player.

Gideon George and Seneca Knight have had their moments from three in their careers, but they haven’t proven they are knockdown shooters. Ideally, BYU needs one of these guys to become at least a 35% 3-point shooter. Both have had stretches where they shoot well from deep, they just need to become more consistent. Both absolutely have the talent to be good scorers — Knight was an All-MWC performer and Gideon received rave reviews during the offseason — they just need to assimilate to their new roles on the team.

BYU is following a similar pattern to Mark Pope’s first two years here, particularly last season. BYU broke in some new faces last year and really struggled to hit shots. They turned it around after a month and were top 50 nationally in 3-point shooting and #1 in WCC play. I am optimistic BYU can do something similar this season. Guys are finding their new roles on the team and are becoming more comfortable in the offense. If BYU can be at least be a top 100 3-point shooting team, their rebounding and defensive ability will be more than enough to be a really good team.

BYU is 6-0 by being outside of the top 300 nationally in three-point shooting, so an improvement will take this team to another level.

Baxter’s contributions have exceeded expectations. How was he able to transition to such a high performing contributor?

Gavin Baxter has been one of the great stories of the early season, becoming the #3 leading scorer on the team by averaging 8.8 ppg and 1.3 blocks despite being on a minutes restriction. He is currently averaging 15 minutes per game.

He played a season high 21 minutes versus Utah after not playing more than 16 minutes in the previous 5 games. Gavin is vital to team’s success, so coaches are being extra cautious after he missed the majority of the last two seasons with season-ending injuries.

Now that he’s a year removed from surgery, coaches will steadily increases his minutes. He’ll likely top off somewhere around the 23-27 minute range, which is what BYU needs from him with Fousseyni Traore and (hopefully) Richard Harward back soon.

Gavin has always had the ability and potential, injuries have just killed him. He was a 4-star, top 100 recruit in high school and showed flashes as a freshman. He had a career high 25 points versus LMU when he hit two threes and 9 games with multiple blocks.

With two elite guards in Te’Jon Lucas and Alex Barcello, he has been lethal in the rim-run game where those guards lob the ball up to him. He’s had three games in a row with double-digit points and is shooting 65% from the field. Gavin is an athletic freak with his 7-foot-3 wingspan and is finally putting things together as a senior.

I only expect Gavin to improve as his minutes become more consistent and he gets more games under his belt. He’s looking more comfortable every game and is becoming of the team’s best players.

Seneca posted an interesting tweet after the Utah game. Is he happy in his role? Will we see more minutes from him?

Seneca will be fine. He and coaches are still figuring out his role on the team. He gives BYU another long wing and has shown the ability in his career to score. This is the first time he hasn’t been the go-to player, so it’s an obvious adjustment.

Coaches know getting more out of Seneca is important to improving the offense, so expect Seneca to get more minutes the next month before we head into WCC play. He has three 30-point games in his career, he just needs to find his role on the team and be comfortable on that. Transfers usually don’t hit the ground running, and Seneca is no exception. Mark Pope has a proven track record with transfer and I’m optimistic we’ll see more contributions from Seneca.

Who are we targeting for the next recruiting class?

The top target I’m watching for 2023 class is 4-star guard Drayvn Gibbs-Lawhorn, who visited BYU the weekend of the Utah football game in September. Dra is originally from Indiana and moved to Utah a couple years ago to play at Real Salt Lake In Herriman. He was at one point a 5-star recruit before a foot injury kept him from playing last season. Still, he is a high-end point guard and higher rated than Collin Chandler. BYU is right there in the mix with Indiana and Purdue.

I’m also keeping an eye on Timpanogos HS (Orem, UT) big man Bron Roberts. Roberts is 4-star recruit, but BYU hasn’t recruited much to this point. Will be interesting to see what his recruitment looks like as he begins his junior year.

BYU will talk to other guys, but those are two local recruits I’m watching right now.

Update on Richard Harward?

Harward is still out as he deals with a cardiovascular issue. The earliest I would expect to see him back is around when WCC play starts in January. He has no timeline for his return, and doctors will continually monitor his progress. If doctors deem him well enough to play, he will return.

Coaches aren’t shutting the door on his return, but this is obviously a situation where an abundance of caution is warranted.