With Noah Waterman and Jaxson Robinson on board, BYU Basketball’s 2022-2023 roster is nearing completion. BYU returns key pieces in Fousseyni Traore, Atiki Ally Atiki, Gideon George, Trevin Knell, Spencer Johnson, and others, but also welcome in several new faces with incoming recruits, transfers, and returned missionaries.
Right now, BYU has all 13 of its scholarships accounted for. Sources close to the program told me that as of now those will be the 13 scholarship guys. I don’t expect any other scholarship players added since someone would need to have a scholarship yanked, but I wouldn’t be completely shocked. Something “can’t miss” would need to happen for BYU to add another guy that isn’t a walk-on.
- Alex Barcello — Graduation
- Te’Jon Lucas — Graduation
- Richard Harward — Graduation/Medical Retirement
- Gavin Baxter — Transfer, Utah
- Caleb Lohner — Transfer, Baylor
- Seneca Knight — Transfer, Illinois State
- Hunter Erickson — Transfer
- Nate Hansen — Transfer
- Jeremy DowDell (walk-on) — Transfer
- Paora Winitana (walk-on) — Mission
Returning Scholarship Players:
- Gideon George, Forward (SR)
Gideon is back for his final year of college basketball and third year at BYU after testing the NBA waters. He had workouts with the Denver Nuggets and Utah Jazz before returning to BYU. He averaged 8.8 points and 5 boards last year on 44% shooting. Gideon is BYU’s second-leading returning scorer behind Fouss and will play a big role. If he shoots like he did the last two months of the season, he will be on the radar of NBA teams as a 3-And-D guy with his 6-foot-6 frame and 7-foot wingspan.
- Trevin Knell, Guard (JR/SR) — Depends on how he utilizes COVID Year
Knell’s 3-Point Shooting dropped to 36% last season after shooting 47% the season before, but he is still an elite shooter. He averaged 6.4 points last season and will look to increase his role to fill the backcourt void left by Lucas and Barcello.
- Spencer Johnson, Guard (JR/SR) — Depends on how he utilizes COVID Year
Spencer averaged 6 points last season on 39% shooting from three. He is my early candidate to start at the two alongside Rudi Williams. Spencer can handle the ball and is one of BYU’s best perimeter defenders.
- Fousseyni Traore, Forward/Center (SO)
Fouss is BYU’s leading returning scorer after averaging 9.8 points last year. He also led the team with 8.5 boards and 1.3 blocks per game on 59% shooting. Fouss is working on his lateral quickness and shooting range so he can play the four, but this season I think he will play a lot of five due to BYU’s roster makeup. Fouss will be a focal point of BYU’s team and could average a double double. I expect him to be Preseason All-WCC.
- Atiki Ally Atiki, Forward/Center (SO)
Atiki wasn’t supposed to play meaningful minutes last season, but injuries forced him into action and he responded well. Atiki’s senior year in Canada got cancelled due to COVID, and he played in fewer than 30 games of organized basketball before last season. At 6-foot-9 with 7-foot-3 wingspan, 9-foot-2 standing reach, and 40-inch vertical, Atiki is just beginning to scratch the surface of his potential. Atiki will be a rim protector and likely play exclusively the five spot. With another year of development, Atiki could be in for a huge jump as a sophomore.
- Trey Stewart, Guard (SO)
Trey didn’t get many minutes last year after returning from his mission, but he is an uber-athletic wing/combo guard that should crack the rotation. Shooting is a question mark for Trey, but he’ll be able to defend day one and can attack off the dribble. He is one of my top candidates as a breakout player this season.
Incoming Scholarship Players
- Rudi Williams, Guard (SR) — Coastal Carolina Transfer
The 5th-year senior will be BYU’s starting point guard next season. After two seasons at JUCO, Rudi played at Kansas State as a rotation player during the 2020-2021 season.
He transferred to Coastal Carolina last season and averaged 14.7 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 3.7 assists last season on 51% shooting from the floor and 45% from three. His 3-point shooting ranked 12th nationally and his effective field goal percentage was 115th nationally, both according to KenPom.
Rudi only has one year of eligibility remaining, but has All-Conference ability and will be a good bridge to BYU’s Big 12 debut.
- Jaxson Robinson, Guard/Forward (SO) — Arkansas Transfer
Robinson committed to BYU in mid-June after stops at Texas A&M and Arkansas. He’ll need a waiver to play immediately, but he will almost certainly received one after he was essentially pushed out by Arkansas coaches to make room for other players.
A 6-foot-6, 185 pound wing from Ada, Oklahoma, Robinson played his first season at Texas A&M before transferring to Arkansas last season. In two seasons for the Aggies and Razorbacks, Robinson played in 30 games (starting 8) and averaged 2.8 points on 38% shooting from the floor.
Jaxson was initially a member of the 2021 recruiting class and a top 50 recruit. He graduated high school a year early and reclassified to the 2020 class, where he was a 4-star recruit and top 70 player. Out of high school Jaxson had offers from Texas A&M, Arkansas, Auburn, Houston, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, TCU, Ole Miss and more.
I don’t think he will start to begin the season, but he could eventually start at the two alongside Rudi as the season goes on. Regardless, Jaxson will be a big part of the rotation. He will play a lot of three behind Rudi and some two guard. His college career hasn’t started off how he envisioned, but he will still be only 19 years old when the season begins.
- Noah Waterman, Forward (SO/JR) — Detroit Mercy Transfer, 2-3 years depending if he uses medical redshirt
I wrote about Noah and his unique backstory shortly after he committed. I think Noah starts at the four alongside Fouss. He stretches the floor and has some guard skills. He’s BYU tallest player at 6-foot-11, but he won’t play much five unless it’s out of necessity due to injury or foul trouble.
I have some questions about his defense, but his wingspan will help shore up some things. I’m excited about what Noah can provide BYU this season and after they enter the Big 12.
- Dallin Hall, Guard (FR) — Returned Missionary
Hall was a consensus 3-star recruit and top 500 player in the 2020 class. He was a big riser as a senior as chose BYU over offers from Oregon State, Utah State, and others.
The 2020 Utah Gatorade player of the year, Hall has the range to pull up from 3 and the ability to drive into the paint. He can go up strong and dunk over smaller defenders, and he’s crafty enough to get around the bigger guys.
I expect Hall to to be a rotation player and compete for the backup point guard spot behind Rudi. Hall’s development will determine how aggressive BYU is going after a point guard in the transfer portal next offseason.
- Richie Saunders, Guard (FR) — Returned Missionary
Saunders was a top 300 recruit in the 2020 class and one of the best high school shooters in the nation at Wasatch Academy. He chose BYU over offers from Creighton, Oregon State, Utah State, and Utah. Saunders was First Team All-State multiple years and shot absolutely lights out. Three-point shooting is his greatest weapon, but he’s more than that. He has a 6-foot-8 wingspan and can attack and score off the dribble. I expect him to be a rotation player this year.
- Tanner Toolson, Guard (FR) — Returned Missionary
Toolson is the son of former BYU player/assistant coach Andy Toolson and chose BYU over Utah, Utah State, and Boise State.
Toolson was named Mr. Basketball for the state of Washington after a breakout senior season. He led Union HS to a 27-1 record and averaged 23 points, 8.5 rebounds and three assists. A late bloomer, Toolson started his high school career as a 5-foot-6 freshman, was on the JV team as a sophomore, became an All-Region player as junior, and then really came onto the recruiting scene during his senior year.
He came home from his mission in a boot and crutches, but he should be full go for the season. BYU has a lot of guards, so I think this year will be tough for Tanner to crack the rotation.
- Braeden Moore, Forward (FR)
The 3-star forward signed with BYU in May. At 6-foot-8, Moore will likely be asked to be a stretch four during his BYU career. Ideally, Moore will be brought along slowly and only play when coaches want him to, not because he’s forced due to injuries.
BYU is still working on what the walk-ons will look like. Casey Brown was on last year’s roster and is still around. Guard Tanner Hayhurst committed to BYU before his mission and is back home. One transfer I’m keeping an eye on is Dee Barnes. Barnes is a 6-foot-4 athletic guard that spent his first two seasons at Mount St Mary’s and last two years at SUU. He got baptized in the LDS Church recently and has shown interest in transferring to BYU as a walk-on. If he can get into grad school in July, Barnes told me that BYU is his first choice. Barnes likely wouldn’t be a rotation player, but he would be a good pickup as a walk-on. He’s averaged 4 points during his college career.
About 2 weeks ago before my trip back home I decided to get baptized. I believe that God has a plan for everyone and before I make my next big decision I wanted to make sure God was first in my life. I appreciate everyone in my life. And I am excited to start a new chapter pic.twitter.com/Pnlj5TLeFm— ✌ (@DeeBarnes22) May 24, 2022
I don’t expect the walk-ons to be finalized for at least another month. BYU may try to add one other big as a walk-on before the season starts.
Potential Starting Lineup
You can put Rudi Williams, Gideon George and Fousseyni Traore in sharpie. Those three will start. Fouss will play the four some this year and more as BYU enters the Big 12, but this year I think he’ll need to play a lot of five. With that, I think Noah Waterman gets the start at four next to Fouss. Waterman is 6-foot-11 and has five inches on Fouss, but his game is more on to the perimeter and Fouss can bang with the thicker guys down low. Fouss’ 7-foot-1 wingspan allows him to play against bigger opponents.
Jaxson Robinson is intriguing as the starting two next to Rudi in the backcourt and he may start there at some point in the season, but to start out I think Spencer Johnson gets the nod. Spencer can handle the ball, shoot, defend, and has experience with Mark Pope.
1- Rudi Williams
2- Spencer Johnson
3- Gideon George
4- Noah Waterman
5- Fousseyni Traore
Fouss, Atiki, and Waterman are going to be your three main guys. Waterman will likely only play the five when he needs to, with that spot getting locked down by Fouss and Atiki. Fouss will slide down to the four when he plays with Atiki. Braeden Moore will play a stretch four role at 6-foot-8, but I think his minutes will be limited. He can shoot, but as a freshman he still needs to work on his defense to guard fours at the college level. He’ll get minutes this year out of necessity depending on foul trouble and injuries, but I think coaches will want to bring him on slowly. Gideon George played the four some last year and will play some when he needs to.
This is where Mark Pope will need to make decisions on rotations. BYU has 13 guys, but realistically won’t play that many guys consistently. I think Pope lands on a 10-man rotation. Rudi, Spencer, Gideon and Trevin are all upperclassmen and will play. Jaxson Robinson has two years of college experience and the skill to contribute right away. I think Trey Stewart makes a leap and has an edge over the returned missionaries due to his year in the program. I loved Saunders and Hall coming out of High School, but they’re going to need to quickly get in shape to get minutes. Hall is the most likely of the three RMs to get minutes due to his ball handling, but I think Saunders is too good to get left off the court.
Before the Richard Harward and Gavin Baxter injuries, I would take last year’s team over this year’s. Alex Barcello provided so much on and off the court, and Harward and Baxter gave BYU good size. BYU likely would’ve made the NCAA Tournament had they not dealt with the injury issues. One silver lining is that Harward’s and Baxter’s injuries accelerated Fouss’ and Atiki’s development.
Even without Barcello and Lucas, I think I would take this year’s iteration over the team we saw after the Baxter injury. Some of that is contingent on the continued development of guys like Fouss, Atiki, Gideon and the emergence of Trey Stewart and/or some of the RMs, but the offense should have more versatility and shooting to it. Noah Waterman gives BYU some much needed floor spacing in the frontcourt, and many of the new additions are great three-point shooters. Rudi Williams doesn’t need to be at an Alex Barcello level, but he needs to be at an All-WCC level if this team is to compete for a tourney spot.
I don’t know if BYU will be a NCAA Tournament team, but they have the talent and schedule to be in the hunt the whole season. If they can pickup a couple marquee wins in the non-conference they’ll put themselves in position.