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BYU Basketball Mailbag: Transfer Targets, Roster, Big 12, Sean East, and More

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BYU enters the fourth offseason of the Mark Pope era after his third season of the head coach in Provo. This will BYU’s first one with the Big 12 as a recruiting chip, which will pay dividends this offseason and beyond. BYU already landed Collin Chandler back in November due in part to BYU’s Big 12 affiliation starting in July 2023.

Below I answer some of your questions — thanks for sending!

How many scholarships are available now? How many incoming will take those/how many other transfers do we need to be in scholly limit?

Let’s first address how many open spots BYU has. Schools have a 13 scholarship allotment. Last season was an exception — returning seniors could take advantage of the free COVID and wouldn’t count against the scholarship limit. Alex Barcello fell into this category and was BYU’s 14th scholarship. So his scholarship isn’t really coming off the books since he was an extra one this year. That means BYU lost 3 scholarship seniors in Te’Jon Lucas, Gavin Baxter and Richard Harward. BYU is bringing in three scholarship returned missionaries in Dallin Hall, Tanner Toolson and Richie Saunders. The three incoming guys offset the three outgoing players, so the day the season ended BYU technically had zero scholarships available for the 2022-2023.

Of course, we knew there would be transfers. As of this publishing we’ve already seen three. Two scholarship players — Nate Hansen and Hunter Erikcson — and one walk-on player — Jeremy DowDell — have already entered the portal. So as of this moment, BYU has two vacant scholarships. More players will transfer. I expect at least one more scholarship but will not be surprised if more transfer out. BYU coaches are the middle of conducting season-end exit interviews, so we should hear more this week of player movement.

The only two players I would be shocked if they transferred are freshmen bigs Fousseyni Traore and Atiki Ally Atiki. This staff brought in Trey Stewart and like his upside, so I’d be surprised to see him go too. Every other player I’d have varying degrees of surprise if they left. That’s not to say every other player will transfer, but I wouldn’t be SHOCKED if any other player hit the transfer portal.

Seems like we are casting a pretty large net and everyone knows about Sean East, but who are the other main targets particularly at Center that we should keep an eye on?

Received several questions about transfer BYU’s targeting and who they could realistically BYU could bring in. At a minimum, the coaching staff is targeting a starting point guard and a big man, preferably one that can stretch the floor and do different things than Fouss and Atiki. Next season is important, but coaches are mainly targeting players with at least two years of eligibility so they will be around for BYU’s entrance into the Big 12. They want to win next season, but they’re not going to bring in a bunch of one year guys. Coaches want to be competitive when entering the Big 12, and next year will largely be a season to prepare for that.

The number one player on the board and someone most BYU fans are already familiar with is JUCO player of the year Sean East. East took a visit to BYU the week of the Washington State NIT game and announced BYU is in his final six along with Missouri, South Florida, Clemson, Oregon and Kentucky. East took an official visit to Mizzou right after BYU, and he is taking an official visit to South Florida this weekend. Right now is a recruiting dead period, meaning no on-campus recruiting is permitted, which is why he’s not going anywhere right now. BYU is fortunate that they already had East on campus, because the dead period now and again next week limits his visits.

East wants to make a decision soon, which means BYU, Mizzou, and South Florida are the only three visits he may take. The official signing period begins April 13 and I expect East to make a decision right around then. I’ve spoken to people close to Sean and people close to BYU and feel like I have a decent sense of what’s going on. At this point I believe it comes down to BYU and Mizzou. The Tigers have a lot of momentum with new Head Coach Dennis Gates. They just landed another top JUCO prospect and have hosted Sean on campus.

BYU has recruited Sean for several months and have been on him harder and longer than any other school. They offer him a chance to start at point guard and lead BYU into the Big 12. At this point I think it’s close between both schools and would not surprised to see Sean go either place.

Who do we realistically stand a chance of getting in the transfer portal?

Sean East ended up being long enough for one section, so breaking it out to other transfers. BYU has reached out to dozens of transfers. You’ve probably seen the tweets of players BYU has reached out to the last few weeks. Coaches are going to reach out to everyone they think is a potential fit. It’s not a batting average where you look good if you get 2 of the 5 transfers you reach out to — 2 of 200 is the same as 2 of 5, so cast a wide net and go for the best players and fits you can.

As I said before, BYU at a minimum will target a point guard and a big man, preferably one that can stretch the floor. I also think they’ll get a guard/wing that can score. Beyond that it depends on how many open scholarships they have to work with. Below are some of the transfers I’m keeping an eye on of guys BYU has talked to and players that I like. BYU has reached out to multiple point guards, but they’ll ratchet it up if Sean East goes elsewhere.

Jarod Lucas, Oregon State

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Lucas is a 6-foot-4 guard that has started the last two season at shooting guard for the Beavers, including their elite 8 run in 2021. This last season he led the Beavers with 13.5 ppg on 42% shooting from the floor and 39% shooting from three. He has two seasons of eligibility left due to the COVID year and could plug into the starting two guard spot for BYU.

BYU has talked to Lucas as have other schools like Auburn, Illinois, Xavier, South Carolina and others. I’m keeping an eye on Lucas the next couple weeks.

Ethan Anderson, USC

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The 6-foot-1 guard recently said BYU is one of the eleven schools he is considering.

Anderson has started in 49 of the 90 games he’s played in USC career, averaging 5 points and 3 assists. Anderson is likely more of a backup plan but someone coaches have talked to.

Noah Taitz, Stanford

NCAA Basketball: Valparaiso at Stanford Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

The 6-foot-3 guard was someone BYU recruited out of high school and had BYU in his final 6. This staff recruited the Bishop Gorman Alum and has already contacted him. Taitz hasn’t done a ton in his Stanford career, averaging 4.5 points in two season, but he has the skill to be a rotational piece and has 3 years left to play.

Jake Kyman, UCLA

NCAA Basketball: UCLA at Stanford Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

Another player BYU recruited out of High School, Kyman was largely recruited by the prior staff before committing to UCLA. Kyman is a 6-foot-7 wing who is an elite shooter. He fell out of the rotation and the end of his career, but he had some big moments in Westwood and can absolutely contribute at his next school with his final two years of eligibility.

Mo Njie, Eastern Michigan

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The 6-foot-10 big man made the MAC All-Freshman team this season after averaging 6.6 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1 block on 62% shooting while shooting 4-8 from three. Njie told me he has talked to Pope and the entire BYU staff and that BYU is in “high consideration.”

BYU recruited Njie out of high school when he was a 3-star recruit but never offered him. He grew up in Ohio and has a high ceiling with his 7-foot-2 wingspan. He does a lot of the same things as Atiki, so he may not be the top big man target on BYU’s list, but he has three seasons of eligibility remaining and has the ability to play in a Power Conference.

David Skogman, Buffalo

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The 6-foot-10 big started in 23 of 30 games for the Bulls this season, averaging 8 points and 6.3 rebounds on 59% shooting from the floor and 38% from three. He has three years of eligibility remaining.

He didn’t have a ton of volume, but he has the ability to score from three and is incredibly efficient — he finished ranked #1 nationally in effective field goal percentage in KenPom. Skogman is the type of big that would fit well with BYU’s current frontcourt.

Ante Brzovic, SE Oklahoma State

The 6-foot-9 big man was one of the top Division Two players this last season. As a freshman the Croatian lefty averaged 18 points and 11 boards on 53% shooting from the floor and 33% from three. That didn’t come at the D1 level, but impressive numbers for a freshman. BYU has looked at Brzovic, who is intriguing with his ability to stretch the floor and three years of eligibility remaining.

Connor Vanover, Arkansas

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The 7-foot-3 big man just entered the portal Wednesday morning, but he’s one I think BYU should pursue. Vanover started his career at Cal before transferring and spending the last three seasons at Arkansas, redshirting his first year.

Vanover can stretch the floor and block shots on defense. For his career he’s averaged 6.3 points and 1.3 blocks while shooting 46% from the field and 32% from three in 15 minutes of play. Vanover had some monster games early in his career before falling out of the rotation this last season at Arkansas. He’s going to have a long line of suitors, but BYU can use some of Matt Haarms success when recruiting Vanover. He would be an ideal fit next to Atiki and Fouss and has two years of eligibility remaining.

When do Ritchie Saunders, Tanner Toolson, and Dallin Hall get home from missions, and which, if any, of them can you see having an immediate impact?

The 3 RMs in Pope’s first recruiting class should get home early this summer. All were good recruits and had multiple suitors before choosing BYU. I see Hall and Saunders having an impact year one. Hall is a 6-foot-3 point guard and I think can be BYU’s backup point guard next season as he acclimates to D1 ball and gets in shape post mission. He has the ability to score and distribute. Hall can be part of BYU’s main core entering the Big 12, so I think the coaching staff will make him part of the rotation.

Richie Saunders is a lights out shooter from Wasatch Academy. He reminds me of Chase Fischer is some ways, who Pope brought over from Wake Forest when he was a BYU assistant. BYU needs more shooting and coaches will find a way for him to get on the floor.

Toolson was a standout player in SE Washington, it’s just going to be tough for him to crack the rotation in year one with all the other players he’ll have to compete against.

How in the world are they going to compete in the big 12?

Kansas won the National Title Monday night, giving the Big 12 the last two national titles after Baylor won the year prior. The Big 12 is the best conference in college basketball, and that’s not going to change when OU and Texas leave. Houston has been a better program than both of those teams and every other team in the Big 12 has had tourney success the last few years.

It’s going to be a hard task for BYU. BYU may not win a Big 12 title for 20 years, and that’s ok. Kansas has absolutely owned the Big 12 for years. Teams like Iowa State, Kansas State, Oklahoma State and many others haven’t won Big 12 titles but have had success in the NCAA Tournament.

I don’t think BYU will be like Kansas is in football, but it’s going to be a grind every week. That being said, I think BYU will largely be competitive when entering the Big 12. That may mean a 6-12 or 7-11 conference record the first couple years, but that’s not bad! Iowa State made the tourney and advanced to the Sweet 16 this year with a 7-11 conference record.

BYU played Kansas in the 2019 Maui Invitational. Kansas that year would have been the #1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament had it not been cancelled. BYU played that game without Yoeli Childs and had Jake Toolson and TJ Haws in the backcourt. BYU lost that game 71-56, but they were down by two in halftime and competitive most of the game. BYU did that with no frontcourt players to speak of versus a Kansas team that was better than this year’s title team.

So it’s going to be incredibly difficult, but BYU will get better. Their recruiting will improve. The depth will be better. They’ll have better players. The Marriott Center is an incredible home court advantage.

There will be no gimmes like there is in the WCC, but I think BYU will play a lot of close games and pull some upsets in year one.