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BYU Basketball Mailbag: Rotations, Big Men, Kolby Lee, Team Health, and More

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

BYU dropped in the AP Poll rankings from 12 to 24 after splitting road games with UVU and Missouri State. The OT loss to UVU obviously contributed to the drop, but I think the bigger factor is that voters were adjusting to the SDSU and Oregon wins losing some of their luster.

24 seems fair and is a great spot for BYU to be in. BYU will have opportunities to move up and improve their resume this week with tough games versus Utah State at home and Creighton in South Dakota. USU is 6-2 on the year and ranked 60 in Kenpom, while the Blue Jays are 7-2 and ranked 73 in KenPom.

I answer some of the questions below in this week’s mailbag.

How are we going to manage losing top two 5s? Interested in your thoughts. Small ball?

Got a few questions for what BYU’s lineup will look like without Baxter. We got a taste of that Saturday when BYU rolled out a starting 5 of Caleb Lohner, Seneca Knight, Trevin Knell, Te’Jon Lucas, and Alex Barcello. Caleb and Fouss will get the lion’s share of minutes at the 5, and Atiki will have to play some as well and will fluctuate game-to-game depending on matchups and foul trouble.

Gideon George was out last week with the flu, but he will likely start once he comes back. BYU will tinker with the lineup, but I think we’ll see Caleb, Gideon, Seneca, Te’Jon, and AB to start. Mark Pope may try out Fouss and put and Spencer/Trevin in place of Seneca, but the amount of minutes each guy plays won’t really change depending on if they start or not.

Having Gideon back dramatically helps BYU’s ability to play small ball. Gideon averages 7 boards a game, including 16 versus Texas Southern. A threesome of Caleb, Gideon, and Fouss is very active on the boards and will be able to control the glass most games. BYU has been one of the top rebounding teams nationally through the first month of the season and it is due mainly to those three players.

BYU can’t replace Gavin Baxter’s rim protection and his ability to finish around the basket, but what BYU has now in the front court is more than capable to be comfortably in the NCAA Tournament.

Two questions: 1) Does the Baxter injury (and potential retirement) change who BYU will recruit for next year? and 2) Is Gideon George back to almost 100%, along with anyone else who has been sick?

Gavin is listed as a senior, but he could be viewed as a COVID junior and still return for one more season if he wanted. All things point to his basketball career being done, which is a huge bummer for Gavin. He’s torn the ACL in both knees, and rehabbing for a third time at his age just doesn’t sound fun. He just got engaged, so he probably gets his degree and moves on with his life.

With Baxter done, BYU will look to add at least one big man via the transfer portal next offseason, maybe even two depending on if Richard Harward returns next year.

As far as Gideon, he’s progressed and should be good to go this week. He practiced Thursday, but didn’t travel with the team to Missouri Friday after he regressed. He had the flu but is better than he was over the weekend. Mark Pope said Tuesday that he practiced a bit Monday and practiced fully today.

Gideon was the only player that missed time due to illness last week, but he wasn’t the only player sick. Multiple sources told me that most of the team had various flu-like symptoms last week and some players were a “mess” physically at various points in the week. Gideon had the worst of it, but other guys weren’t 100% during the UVU and Missouri State games.

Updates on Richard Harward if any.

I talked to two people in the last week close to the program about Rich. One person told me that we won’t see Harward until January at the earliest. The other person said he isn’t very optimistic about Richard coming back this season.

Coaches and doctors will be very cautious how they proceed and this will be a fluid situation the rest of the season.

Kolby Lee?

BYU is thin in the front court, which has led many to wonder about the possibility of bringing Kolby Lee back.

I went straight to the source and talked to Kolby last Thursday about the possibility of returning to BYU. If you remember, Kolby transferred to Dixie State this offseason but didn’t play after he did not get into the Master’s Program he wanted. He posted on Instagram that he would retire from basketball.

He entered the transfer portal the week leading up to Thanksgiving, potentially opening the door to a return to basketball. Below is what Kolby said when I asked him if BYU has reached out to him and if he would have any interest in joining the team.

“I would be interested if I could get some NIL deals to pay for school and to pay some bills,” Kolby told me. “But that’s kinda hard to know that. They (coaches) have kind of reached out but now that season is going they haven’t reached out much.”

I talked to a couple people connected to the BYU side and there would be some roadblocks in bringing Kolby in. Kolby did enroll in classes at Dixie State, although he never attended them, which means that he would need a waiver to play immediately since he already used his one-time transfer exemption. Waivers are cumbersome and there really isn’t any precedence of a guy getting a waiver to transfer mid-year and play immediately after using their one-time transfer exemption, so while BYU coaches would like to have Kolby, it likely isn’t very feasible at this point to get Kolby in time for when the winter semester starts in a month.

Never say never, but seems like there is too much NCAA red tape to cut through to make this a reality.