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BYU Hoops Mailbag: Recruiting, Updated Expectations, Rotations, and More

The latest in the BYU Hoops world.

San Diego State v Brigham Young Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images

Football is a sad topic right now unfortunately, but we have some juice in the basketball program after BYU’s 9-point win over San Diego State. BYU received 32 votes in Monday’s AP Poll, which would put them at 32nd overall.

Thanks for all your questions this week, I get to a lot of them below.

Any news on Marcus Adams?

Let’s get the Marcus Adams Jr. waiver question out of the way since I know several people are asking about it. As of this morning (November 14), BYU has not heard back from the NCAA on Adams’ waiver request. I don’t know how the NCAA prioritizes the waiver requests, but I’m assuming they go in order of when the request was submitted. Since Marcus didn’t commit to BYU until September, his request is right at or near the bottom of the pile. The NCAA doesn’t give an indication to schools on when they’ll hear back on waivers, so it could be this week or three weeks from now.

My expectation is that Marcus will not get a waiver and need to redshirt. I will be pleasantly surprised if his waiver his granted.

How good is Dawson Baker and whose minutes will he be taking when he plays?

You could have debates about who the best player is on BYU’s roster, but Dawson Baker is unquestionably the most accomplished college basketball player on the roster. He was Big West freshman of the year in 2020-2021, all-league honorable mention as a sophomore, and last year he was All-Big West Second Team. He is the only player on BYU’s roster that has averaged double figures in three seasons. Dawson averaged 15.3 points last year and was the leading scorer for UC Irvine, the Big West regular season champs. For his career, he’s shot 46% from the floor, 37% from three, and 79% from the foul line.

He had foot surgery over the summer and had a little setback on that last month. As far as timeline, this is mostly me speaking: I think we could see him as early as Thanksgiving, although it may be closer to conference play depending how cautious coaches and doctors want to be. One thing you don’t want to do is have him re-injure his foot and be out for the rest of the season. BYU has the luxury of some guard depth and mostly soft non-conference schedule.

Dawson is a two/combo guard. He can play some point guard if needed, but he is a scorer. Trey Stewart and Trevin Knell are two obvious ones whose minutes would be impacted just due to their positions, but I’d imagine Noah Waterman (BYU could go smaller), Spencer Johnson, and Dallin Hall will be impacted in some way to carve out minutes for Dawson.

Dawson gives someone that can create his own shot and score from different spots on the floor. “Crafty” may seem like a cop out word, but that’s the kind of scorer Dawson is — he is good at creating space and scoring from all three levels. I’m really excited to get Dawson back. He may not start, but once healthy he’ll be a big part of the rotation. I think he is the best scorer on BYU’s guard line. He has two years of eligibility remaining.

You can watch highlights of Dawson below.

I’ve had low expectations for this year. After the last two games, I’m excited to see what this team does. Should I stay excited or go back to expecting a bad season?

Going into the season, my regular season projection for BYU was to finish 16-15 — 11-2 in non-conference, 5-13 in Big 12 play. All things considered, I don’t think that would be a bad first season in the Big 12. It’s still too early for me to deviate too much from that prediction. The main reason is the way the second half started versus the Aztecs. San Diego State really turned up their defensive pressure, and BYU struggled to score in the halfcourt and had more turnovers.

The way SDSU guarded that stretch is my number one concern for BYU in Big 12 play. Big 12 teams GUARD. They won’t necessarily full court press you, but their guards and wings will pick you up 30+ feet for the basket and make you execute in the halfcourt. Those are the types of teams BYU has struggled with — that 2021 tournament game against UCLA still haunts me. Teams will put Dallin Hall and other guards in a torture chamber and force BYU to make them pay for that pressure. I’m not sure BYU is equipped enough to handle that consistently yet.

BYU adjusted and was able to win the game, but SDSU was without some backcourt pieces that limited their depth. Teams like Houston, Kansas, Baylor, Texas Tech, TCU, and other others will test BYU’s guard line. Getting Dawson Baker will help a lot and on paper Aly Khalifa should help BYU’s halfcourt execution, but I still worry about BYU’s ability to score against teams with physical guards/wings.

Regardless of the competition, I have no doubt BYU is better than last season. The continuity and experience on the roster should pay major dividends for BYU’s offensive and defensive execution. That should lead to many competitive games in the Big 12, even if BYU comes up short more often than not.

Aly Khalifa hasn’t had as big of a role as I (and many of the computer models that expected BYU to be good) was expecting. Why do you think that is? What is his best role on this team?

Khailfa was a big recruiting win for BYU. Florida and BYU were his two finalists, and he was REALLY close to picking the Gators. Florida gave him a nice NIL offer, and if you want the truth, he was verbally committed to the Gators for about an hour before changing his mind and flipping to BYU.

If Aly is going to be effective this season, he has to be used a certain way. At Charlotte, the 49ers were dead last in tempo. They slogged the ball up the court and were very methodical in their halfcourt sets. Think Saint Mary’s.

That is the type of system Khalifa flourishes in for two reasons. One, he is an elite passer and his ability to operate as essentially a point guard from the center spot flourishes in the halfcourt. The second reason is that Aly isn’t exactly in pristine shape. Part of that is because he missed a lot of the offseason with some nagging injuries, so his conditioning was delayed. I expect that to improve as the season progresses, but that will never be his strength.

BYU is mainly an up tempo team, but they will slow things down some when Aly is in the game. I expect his production to vary depending on the opponent. Teams like Utah, Texas Tech, Iowa State, Oklahoma, Houston and others will slow the tempo and force BYU into a halfcourt game. West Virginia and Kansas have dominant centers. Those are the types of games where I think Aly will have the biggest impact. Halfcourt games or games where team have elite rim protectors and Aly’s floor spacing can get them away from the rim. Teams like Texas or TCU that have really good guards and will push the tempo likely aren’t the game scripts where he will have a big impact. Those are ones where I think Atiki will see more time.

BYU’s strength and conditioning team is working with Aly everyday to get him in better shape, and my hope is by December we see closer to the version of Aly that we hoped when BYU signed him.

Mark Pope recently posted some practice clips from Khalifa that showcase his passing ability. Don’t throw in the towel on Aly. He’s already shown some nice passing through two games and hit a three in the opener. His impact will come.

Who are the top 2025 recruiting targets? Is BYU a tournament team?

2025 in an interesting local class. 2024 had some really good guys and 2026 is LOADED. Lot of really high end high schoolers from the state of Utah in 2026. 2025 is not quite as strong as those classes. Idaho native and 5-Star Wasatch Academy guard Isiah Harwell is a top 10 player in the class, but he’s not going BYU. He’ll end up somewhere like North Carolina, Texas, Villanova, etc.

One local recruit I’m watching is Lone Peak’s Chamberlain Burgess. Burgess is unrated by 247 and Rivals at the moment, but is rated a 4-Star recruit by ESPN. His offers right now include Utah Tech, SUU, and CSUN, but I expect his recruitment to heat up his junior year and into the summer. BYU and Utah are both recruiting but haven’t offered yet.

Burgess is a 4/5 man that is versatile big. His uncle is Utah assistant Chris Burgess and both his parents played basketball at BYU. His dad Joshua Burgess played 5 games under Steve Cleveland during the 2004-2005 season and his mom Ashleigh Chamberlain was a multi-year starter at BYU during the 02-03 and 03-04 seasons. I would not be surprised if a BYU offer comes his way at some point.

JJ Mandaquit is a Hawaiian native and preps at Utah Prep, but I expect the top 100 point guard to go out of state.

Outside of those players, a lot of BYU’s high school recruiting will come from out of state guys.

For the second question, I’ve the target in my head of an 18-13 regular season record to get BYU on the NCAA Tournament bubble — 11-2 in non-conference play and 7-11 in Big 12 play. That’s what West Virginia did last year and got a 9 seed, although their non-conference schedule was stronger than BYU’s this season.

Is Collin Chandler going to be a coug? (This is mostly for other fans)

As long as Mark Pope is BYU’s head coach, Collin Chandler will be a Cougar. Cody Fueger was a big part of Collin’s recruitment and is still on the staff. Collin and his family are totally bought in to BYU’s basketball program. I won’t give details to respect Collin and his family, but I am extremely confident Collin will remain a Cougar and cannot wait to see him in blue.

What happened to Jaxson in the second half of the SDSU game?

Jaxson had a great first half off the bench, scoring all 12 of his points in the first 20 minutes and sparking BYU to a 5-point halftime lead. Jaxson has always been able to shoot the ball, but his patience on the offensive end in not settling and his defense were both huge. Jaxson checked out with 11:52 left in the second half and didn’t come back in. BYU rolled with Dallin Hall, Spencer Johnson, and Trevin Knell the rest of the way.

I don’t know why Jaxson didn’t check back in. Trevin was doing fine, so that probably factored into things. I do know Jaxson missed some practice in late October, so that could have factored into things as he acclimates to game speed.

Regardless, Jaxson will be a huge part of the team moving forward whether he starts or comes off the bench. I don’t think his lack of second half minutes is indicative of what we’ll see.