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Mark Pope Visits Madagascar, Turkey as BYU Continues World Wide Recruiting

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

BYU hoops will have 5 international players on the roster this coming season. Three from Africa (Gideon George, Atiki Ally Atiki, and Fousseyni Traore), one from Canada (Rudi Williams), and one from China (Hoh Dong).

If coaches’ flight itinerary this offseason is any indication, international recruiting will be a focus for BYU moving forward. According to multiple sources within and connected to the program, BYU coaches have traveled to Mexico, Spain, Romania, Turkey, and Madagascar to recruit this offseason.

Pope himself has been to Mexico, Turkey, and Madagascar. Pope went to Mexico in late March to visit Fredrick King, and recently returned from trips earlier this month to Turkey and Madagascar. Turkey was a site for the FIBA U18 European championships and Madagascar hosted the FIBA U18 Africa championships August 4-15. Pope’s trip to Madagascar was particularly noteworthy. One national recruiting pundit told me that Pope was “100% the only (college) coach there”. Pope went to scout multiple players, but one particular player that Pope watched in Africa was Mali native and local 2024 prospect Malick Diallo. Diallo confirmed to me that he saw Pope in Madagascar.

The HS junior-to-be has prepped at Juan Diego Catholic HS (Draper, Utah) and will play this year at national powerhouse Wasatch Academy. BYU was the first school to offer last year, and his recruiting has taken off since. The 6-foot-10 big man made the FIBA U18 Africa Tournament All-Star team and has seen his recruiting blown up this summer at various camps around the country. Diallo is the player at the far left in the below picture.

Diallo’s AAU team is Utah Stars, coached by former BYU Cougs Marty Haws and Travis Hansen. In addition to BYU, he holds offers from LSU, Washington St, Arizona St, Utah St, UC Santa Barbra, UC Irvine, UNLV, Weber State, and UVU. Diallo’s recruiting is expected to blow up, so Pope is doing everything he can to land the talented big. Diallo has already attended multiple BYU games and is friends with fellow Mali native Fousseyni Traore.

Below is an excerpt in late July from Made Hoops about Diallo’s summer rise, before the African U18 championships.

“Fresh off a tremendous showing at the FIBA U17 World Cup with Mali, Diallo showed more of the same in Chicago. A lively athlete at 6-10, the intrigue and eccentricity stems from the variety of boxes that Diallo has begun to check outside of impactful rim running and bouncy leaping ability as of late. A coverage-versatile big with a roaring motor, high level ball skills, plus hands and first-rate timing in high/lows in either spot. Finesse finishes, fluidity operating in DHO’s, cleaning the glass and sparking transition the other way and flashes of advantage creation from the mid-post all sparked intrigue. UCLA, LSU, Utah, Arizona and BYU were among those front and center. The 17-year-old is headed to Wasatch Academy this coming season and looks like a candidate to spike in rankings and potentially see his recruitment spread nationally.”

You can see Diallo’s versatile skillset in the clip below, which includes his athleticism and ability to hit the three ball.

Diallo plays in BYU’s backyard, but the fact that Pope flew to Madagascar to see him shows that Pope believes he will be a critical piece in BYU’s recruiting efforts and that BYU expects his recruiting to blow up nationally.

Getting long, athletic big men and athletic wings will be a priority for BYU in the Big 12, and establishing an African recruiting pipeline will be one way BYU hopes to get those types of players.

In addition to Pope’s recent trips to Madagascar and Turkey, BYU also had coaches at the European FIBA U18 championships in Romania in late July, FIBA U18 Americas in Mexico in early June, and a stop in Spain. Pope had Fennell go to Mexico for the FIBA U18 Americas less than two weeks after being officially hired. Coaches were mainly scouting talent for the 2023 and 2024 recruiting classes.

BYU coaches know they need to upgrade their talent if they are to compete in the Big 12. They will continue to recruit stateside and add talent in the transfer portal, but recruiting talent from throughout the world will also be a bigger priority moving forward.