Freshman big man Fousseyni Traore wasn’t supposed to be a major part of BYU’s rotation before the season started. BYU was returning senior big men Richard Harward and Gavin Baxter, so Fouss went into the year with a great opportunity to learn from both of them. Harward was out before the season began with a heart issue and Gavin suffered a torn ACL December 1, meaning Fouss was fully thrust into the fire.
Fouss has responded better than anyone could have anticipated, leading BYU in rebounds (7.8), blocks (1.4), and third in scoring (8.1) while shooting 52% from the floor and 77% from the foul line 20 games into BYU’s season. When Fouss signed with BYU, people close to the program told me that his player comp was Yoeli Childs. Both players have similar size at 6-foot-6 — Yoeli was listed as 6-foot-8 at BYU but measured at 6-foot-6 in the NBA combine — and long wingspans. Yoeli’s wingspan measured at just under 7-feet at the NBA combine and Fouss measures at 7-foot-1, which allows him to play much bigger than 6-foot-6. Yoeli is probably a bit more twitchy, but Fouss has 30 more pounds on Yoeli at 255 pounds.
Yoeli is one of the best players in BYU history, averaging over 18 points a game as a sophomore and over 22 points both his junior and senior seasons. Yoeli’s freshman season, however, had many similarities to what Fouss is doing now. In 33 games his freshman season, Yoeli averaged 9.3 points, 8.2 boards and 1.4 blocks per game while shooting 55% from the floor and 59% from the foul line. That is the same blocks and rebounds Fouss averages and one point more that than Fouss is averaging. Yoeli’s FG% is slightly higher (+3%) while Fouss is much better from the foul line (+18%).
Fouss’ 8.1 ppg, 7.8 rpg, and 1.4 bpg are through 18 games. Through Yoeli’s first 18 games, he averaged 9.5 points, 7.9 rebounds, and 1.1 blocks. One important thing to keep in mind is that Yoeli started alongside Erik Mika. Without Mika, Yoeli’s freshmen numbers are probably even better.
Fouss was inserted into the starting lineup just 6 games ago, so his numbers will only continue to improve. One area to watch over Fouss’ career will be his development of a three-point shot. Fouss is 1-7 from three this year, but his foul shooting suggests he could be a good three-point shooter. Yoeli was 0-2 his freshman year from deep and 15-47 (32%) his sophomore year. Yoeli cast up 99 threes his junior year and still shot 32% and improved his efficiency to 49% (22-45) as a senior). I fully expect Fouss to develop his three-point shot this offseason and have that be a regular part of his game moving forward. Fouss’ broad shoulders and 255-pound frame will also allow him to be a problem for opposing players on the block.
Yoeli is an incredibly high bar to shoot for, but I believe that Fouss can reach that level of productivity during his time at BYU and be a Big 12 All-Conference caliber player by the time BYU joins his junior year.