It’s the offseason for BYU, which means Mark Pope and his staff will be active in the transfer portal. BYU doesn’t have much scholarship space at the moment, but expect some guys to transfer out of the program. The scholarship limit is 13 and BYU has 14 locked in as of now. Nate Hansen was signed by the previous staff and is one of the 14, so he wouldn’t be a surprising guy to see go elsewhere. I can see around 2-3 other BYU guys transferring out, which would open up spots for transfers. I don’t think it’s appropriate for me at this time to list names, but we’ll start seeing guys very soon hit the portal. Jesse Wade is in the portal but he was a walk on this season.
Guards, particular point guards, are the emphasis for BYU. I expect BYU to sign at least two transfers this cycle, but that could easily fluctuate over the next couple weeks. Below is the list of guys BYU is going after — I have spoken with people inside BYU’s program, recruits, and people associated with recruits to get the most accurate list. The basketball season isn’t even over yet, so expect to see more names pop up in the coming weeks.
Mike Saunders Jr; Point Guard, Cincinnati
With Brandon Averette moving on and Alex Barcello’s status still up in the air, BYU is looking for a point guard to come in right away and start. The #1 guy on that list is Cincinnati point guard Mike Saunders Jr. Saunders went to Wasatch Academy as a junior and senior, so he was teammates with Caleb Lohner and future Cougars Fousseyni Traore and Richie Saunders.
Mark Pope met with Saunders Monday morning in a virtual Zoom meeting.
BYU’s Mark Pope just completed a virtual meeting with Cincinnati transfer Mike Saunders Jr. he told @Stockrisers. Remember, he attended the famous Wasatch Academy prior to committing to the Bearcats.— Jake (@jakeweingarten) March 29, 2021
One source inside the program said the meeting went well and that Saunders is looking for a situation completely different from what he had in Cincinnati. Six Bearcats players have entered the portal so far, stemming from a rift between players and coaches. BYU is pushing the “Best Locker Room in America” mantra hard with Saunders and it is resonating with him.
If you’re into Social Media indicators, Saunders gave off a few on his Instagram:
Mike Saunders jr — Cincinnati transfer and former Wasatch teammate of Lohner — commenting on Caleb’s IG post with eye emojis and a royal blue heart. BYU is pursuing Saunders as he could be the PG of the future. pic.twitter.com/tOuoxKc1pB— Robby McCombs (@rtmccombs) March 25, 2021
On the court, Saunders would bring a dynamic presence to the point guard position. As a true freshman this past season, he averaged 3.5 ppg and 1.4 apg. He started 10 games at the end of the season and that’s where he got more playing time. He had a season high 19 points versus Memphis late in the season where he showed off his lightning quick first step. Saunders is 6 feet tall, but he would be the quickest player on BYU’s roster and be a foundational piece for the next few season’s team.
BYU’s Chances: BYU is among the favorites and I can definitely see him coming to Provo. He’s from Indianapolis, so look at other midwest schools to be in the mix.
Cameron Shelton; Point Guard, Northern Arizona
No one has talked about Shelton, but BYU is in a very good spot for the dynamic point guard. The 6-foot-2 junior guard was first team All-Big Sky as he averaged 19.2 points, 5.9 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 1.2 steals on 42% shooting and 35% from deep. As you can see by the numbers, Shelton did everything for the Lumberjacks. He was 5th nationally in usage rate and 37th nationally in scoring.
At BYU, he wouldn’t have the same pressure on him and would be much more efficient. One source close to the program told me that BYU is in the top 5 for Shelton along with USC, Missouri and Fresno State.
BYU’s Chances: I think BYU has a better shot at Saunders, but they are absolutely in the mix for Shelton. With the free year, Shelton would have two seasons if he elects to go that route. If given the option I think BYU would take Saunders and Shelton.
UPDATE: Shelton committed to LMU on 3/31.
Tanner Groves; Power Forward, Eastern Washington
The Big Sky player of the year burst onto the scene nationally in the NCAA Tournament when he scored 35 points in the Eagles first round loss to Kansas. Groves is a 6-foot-9 forward that averaged 17.2 points and 8 rebounds this season. He has good post moves and range out to the 3-point line.
His younger brother and teammate, Jacob, is also in the transfer portal. Jacob is a 6-foot-7 forward that averaged 9 points per game and had 23 points versus Kansas. Both players could be a package deal and BYU would take Jacob if it meant landing Tanner.
BYU’s Chances: BYU first made contact with Tanner on Sunday, but they are with a long list of suitors. Nearby Washington State is pursuing the brothers hard as are other high majors. Groves is very religious and is good friends with BYU punter Ryan Rehkow, so BYU does have some things going for them. At this point I would say BYU’s chances are low, but things could change in the next week as BYU makes more contact with Tanner.
Other Guys to Watch
Rudi Williams; Guard, Kansas State
BYU has been in touch with Williams and Williams really likes BYU. At this time, however, Williams is more of a backup option as BYU pursues other guards. Williams is a 6-foot-3 combo guard that averaged just under 5 ppg as a junior after coming from the JUCO ranks. My sense is that BYU could get Williams if they want him, but they won’t add him unless other higher profile guards don’t work out over the next couple months.
UPDATE: Williams committed to Coastal Carolina Monday afternoon.
No long talk...Let’s do it‼️ pic.twitter.com/3vxMa3pJBM— Rueadale ”Rudi” Williams (@Rueadale) March 29, 2021
Bayron Matos; Forward, New Mexico
BYU reached out the athletic 6-foot-9 forward a couple weeks ago, but their pursuit has dwindled off and Matos is no longer a priority for the staff.
Timmy Allen; Forward, Utah
I know BYU fans have put his name out there after he announced his transfer, but it’s not happening. BYU won’t really pursue besides maybe a call and Allen probably wouldn’t be interested. He’ll have a ton of options.
Tre Williams; Guard, Minnesota
The sophomore guard is another former Wasatch product. Like Mike Saunders, Williams was also teammates with Caleb Lohner and future Cougars Fousseyni Traore and Richie Saunders. I think BYU’s chances here are pretty low, but Williams is a talented guard — he averaged just under 6 points for the Gophers.