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BYU Basketball Mailbag: Big Men, Rotations, Player Development, and More

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: NOV 24 Vegas Showdown - NC State v BYU Photo by Jeff Speer/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

What a time for the BYU Basketball program. With a 6-0 record and #19 ranking BYU has certainly surpassed expectations out of the gate. The key will be keep the momentum going because, frankly, at this point it would be disappointing to miss the NCAA Tournament after such a promising start.

I go into some of your questions below in my latest hoops mailbag.

What do we know about Fouss’s injury at this point? Is he expected to miss multiple games?

I’m gonna preface this with how I feel about reporting on injuries.

I’m not a real reporter/journalist. I have a day job and I cover BYU on the side, mostly basketball. This is my hobby. I think I do a pretty good job and I always strive to provide accurate and compelling content, but I’m not a real journalist. I’m a BYU fan. When it comes to injuries, what benefit does it provide me to break injury news if it only hurts BYU? If I was a real journalist, I would probably run a story with injury specifics as soon as I heard them from trusted sources. And Mark Pope may say something this week if he feels compelled. So all of that to say I usually avoid delving into specifics of injuries — I’ll let the player or coaching staff give exact details if they choose.

Here’s generally what I know. With Fouss, I think he’ll miss some time. He hurt his hamstring and knee in that NC State game. I don’t know an exact timeline, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he misses the rest of non-conference and possibly into Big 12 play.

How would BYU compensate for a potential absence of Fouss? The next questions leads into that.

Aly Khalifa’s play was impressive, particularly since he’s dealing with a knee problem. Do you know exactly what his knee issue is and how long it might take to heal up?

Aly has nothing structurally wrong with his knee, it’s largely just a pain tolerance. If Fouss is to miss an extended amount of time, Aly Khalifa and Atiki Ally Atiki will obviously pick up most of the minutes. Aly would likely start, and I am excited to see the offense would like with him as the starting five man.

Fouss would undoubtedly be a big loss — he was BYU’s best player last season and is BYU’s best scorer on the block — but Aly brings such a unique dimension. Aly will operate mostly from the high post and bring the opposing five man away from the basket. BYU is arguably the best three-point shooting team in the country, so opposing players will be draped on perimeter players to limit the three-point shot. As we saw in the NC State game, that opens up hard cuts to the basket and easy layups. I want Fouss to heal as quickly as possible because BYU is better with him, but if I’m being honest I think BYU’s offense has a higher ceiling with the passing and shooting ability Aly brings. BYU will have five shooters on the court and Aly will operate the offense essentially as a point forward. The biggest loss without Fouss is not having someone BYU can dump the ball down to on the low block to get a bucket when the rest of the offense is struggling.

Aly averaged 29 minutes per game at Charlotte last season and played nearly 30 minutes versus NC State on little practice time, so I think he can play big minutes this season. Just cross your fingers that another big man doesn’t go down.

How does Dawson Baler fit into this rotation of guys that we have seen so far this season? What does he bring to the table?

I’m really excited for Dawson to return from his foot injury and think we’ll see him in December, possibly by the Utah game.

Here’s what I wrote about Dawson in my mailbag two weeks ago.

“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.”

Dawson is a talented player that can score in a variety of ways. “Crafty” can be used as a euphemism for a guy that’s not very athletic, but Dawson is a crafty scorer in the best sense of the word. He would be BYU’s best scorer off the dribble and can create offense in one-on-one situations.

Mark Pope and his staff have a good problem on their hands — whose minutes will he take? It will have to be a combination of multiple players. Trey Stewart, Spencer Johnson, Trevin Knell, Dallin Hall, and others will inevitably have to see their minutes come down to make room for Dawson.

What combination of who’s and what’s is most responsible for Noah Waterman dramatic improvement?

Noah Waterman has been BYU’s most improved player through the first six games of the season. He is averaging 12.5 points, 6.8 rebounds, and shooting 50% from the floor and 47% from three with only 3 turnovers the whole year.

Noah has always had the shooting ability. During the 2020-2021 season he was top 3 nationally with a 52% three-point shooting percentage. He’s been consistent from three to start the year and his defense and three-point shooting have taken a giant leap.

I’ve talked to people close to Noah about what’s changed for him this year. The unanimous consensus is that he’s take a big step mentally. He’s fully bought into Pope’s vision for him as a 6-foot-11 stretch big that can cause havoc on the defense and the glass. Noah has not had much stability in his life and little formal basketball training, and being at BYU for two seasons now has given him stability and more resources than he’s ever had.

BYU will play some fantastic frontcourt players this season, and Noah’s continued development at the four and five spots will be a huge key to BYU’s success.

Marcus Adams Jr. waiver status?

Same update — no news. The NCAA doesn’t give timelines, so we could find out today or three weeks from now. I still think it would be a pleasant surprise if we see Marcus this season. Even if he does get his waiver, the foot/ankle issue he’s been dealing with could keep him out awhile. I’m banking on Marcus redshirting this season.

What are your thoughts on Atiki right now, especially after that punch? How do you see his development coming along? Love to see my cougs 6-0!!!

If Fouss is indeed out an extended amount of time. Atiki will become an important piece for the team. Aly Khalifa does a lot of good things with his passing and shooting ability, but his athletic deficiencies will be exposed at times defensively. Atiki will counted on to complement that by matching up with athletic opposing frontcourt players and provide rim protection. This team doesn’t need Atiki to be be a scoring threat. All he needs to be is someone that can provide 15+ minutes a night with solid defense and rebounding.