Who are the best LDS players in college basketball right now? I put together a list of what an all LDS team would like, with the following parameters. I limited it to 13 players — the scholarship allotment each DI team is allowed — and bent the rules a bit by including missionaries that are currently serving. It’s my game, so I can bend the rules however I see fit.
One interesting note is that every player in the starting 5 was either in the 2017 or 2018 recruiting class out of high school, before BYU’s current staff was at BYU. Most of the players in the starting 5 were low-level recruits that have developed well and are playing well at their respective schools.
Disclaimer: I don’t know every player’s religious affiliation in college basketball, but I believe I captured the top guys here.
5 — Tolu Smith, Mississippi State
Tolu Smith is the best LDS player in college hoops. The 6-foot-11 big man was a Preseason All-SEC selection and is averaging 15 points and 8.4 boards on 58% shooting. This is the fifth-year senior’s third straight season averaging double figures.
Why isn’t Tolu Smith at BYU? Tolu was a member of the 2018 recruiting class and was looked at by the prior staff. Smith grew up in Mississippi and moved to Hawaii before his senior year of high school, which is where his mom grew up. Sources close to Tolu told me that BYU was his dream school in high school, but BYU never offered. And I don’t necessarily blame the prior staff — Tolu was an unrated prospect in high school who didn’t have a ton of offers. Tolu signed with Western Kentucky and head coach Rick Stansbury out of high school, who knew Tolu from his time as Mississippi State’s head coach. Tolu played one season at Western Kentucky before transferring to Mississippi to be closer to his family, which is where they live now, and the rest is history.
Tolu has one year of eligibility remaining if he uses his COVID year.
4 — Branden Carlson, Utah
A member of the 2017 recruiting class, the Bingham product was also recruited and offered by BYU’s prior staff before signing with Utah. The 4-star prospect has turned into one of the top big man out west, averaging 16.5 points and 7.7 boards on 53% shooting. Carlson has developed an outside shot the last few years to expand his game.
3 — Spencer Johnson, BYU
Not many LDS wings out there, so in this scenario BYU is going with a three-guard lineup and starting two 7-footers. The junior guard has turned into arguably BYU’s most important player, averaging 11 points and shooting 47% from three.
2 — Dawson Baker, UC Irvine
You might be asking yourself, “who is Dawson Baker?” The 6-foot-4 junior guard from Southern California was a member of the 2018 class and served a two-year Church mission before enrolling at UC Irvine. Baker was the Big West Freshman of the Year and has averaged double figures in all three seasons.
Baker leads UC Irvine in scoring at 15 ppg while shooting 48% from the floor. The Anteaters are in contention for a Big West title as they look to make the NCAA Tournament.
1 — Steven Ashworth, Utah State
The 6-foot-1 point guard from Alpine, Utah has developed really well in his three seasons at Utah State. Ashworth was an unranked prospect in the 2018 class and signed with Utah State before heading on his mission. Ashworth averaged 6 points as a freshman in the 2020-2021 season, and now leads the Aggies with 16 points and 4.5 assists on 48% shooting from deep.
Jaxon Kohler, Michigan State
The 6-foot-9 freshman big man from American Fork played his senior year in Southern California before heading to the Big Ten to play for Tom Izzo. Kohler has been a rotational piece for the Spartans this year, averaging 3 points and 3 boards per game.
Caleb Lohner, Baylor
Lohner had two up-and-down seasons for BYU before returning to his home state to play for Baylor. Caleb has played in all 23 games for #14 Baylor, averaging 3.9 points and 4.3 boards in 14.4 minutes of action. He is shooting 52% on the year and 3-12 from three. Caleb has found a bench role as the 8th or 9th guy on a Baylor team that will be in contention to make the Final Four. BYU will see him in the Big 12 next season.
Dallin Hall, BYU
BYU’s starting point guard has been thrust into action right off his mission and responded on numerous occasions. Hall is averaging 7.5 points and 3.3 assists while shooting 36% from three. Dallin has a bright future as BYU heads into the Big 12.
Richie Saunders, BYU
Richie is taking some time to find his three-point stroke, but he is instant energy off BYU’s bench and has played well the last few weeks. He will be a big contributor for BYU going forward, especially once his three-point shot returns with consistency.
Maizen Fausett, SUU
This made-up team lacks perimeter length, and Maizen gives some of that at 6-foot-6. The fifth-year senior from Saratoga Springs, Utah averages 12.5 points and 6.5 boards for a SUU team that is in contention to win the WAC.
Trevin Knell, BYU
Knell hasn’t played this year due to a shoulder injury, but when healthy he is a lights-out shooter. You can’t have too much shooting, which is why I gave Trevin one of the final spots on the roster.
Collin Chandler, BYU (Mission)
I mentioned before that I’m cheating a bit by adding in active missionaries, so Collin Chandler absolutely gets a spot. He is the highest rated recruit on this list and could easily find his way into the starting lineup. Collin is a three-level scorer with great athleticism. BYU will build around him as soon as he returns home from his mission, which is scheduled to be Summer 2024.
Jake Wahlin, BYU (Mission)
Wahlin returns home from his mission this summer and will be a nice addition for BYU. Size was my question for Wahlin coming out of high school, but sources close to Jake told me he has grown to 6-foot-9 without shoes and 225 pounds. He will be a versatile four man on this fantasy team and once he joins BYU.