BYU hoops landed its first transfer of the offseason as Charlotte Center Aly Khalifa announced his commitment to BYU. He chose the Cougars over other finalist Florida. ESPN ranks Khalifa as the 89th best player in the transfer portal.
I talked to Aly about why he chose BYU.
“I chose BYU because of the great coaching staff and the amazing community. Just love everything about Provo and BYU. Really excited and can’t wait for the season to start already.”
Listed at 6-foot-11 and 230 pounds, Khalifa is a versatile stretch big man. He was one of the top players for a 49ers team that won the CBI, averaging 11.7 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 2.7 assists on 51% shooting from the floor and 38% shooting from three. Khalifa was 48-126 from three on the season, and 41% of his field goal attempts were from deep. Khalifa can be a catch-and-shoot guy, but he also does a lot of his damage in pick-and-pop situations. What’s notable is that Charlotte is one of the slowest paced teams in the country. According to KenPom they were 362 out of 363 D1 teams in tempo, so they had fewer possessions than the average team.
A native of Alexandria, Egypt, Khalifa has two years of eligibility remaining. He redshirted his first year on campus and won C-USA Freshman of the Year in 21-22. He averaged 3.5 assists as a freshman and has been one of the best passing big men in the country the last two seasons. Khalifa shot 20-57 from three as a redshirt freshman (35%), and increased his efficiency as a sophomore even while more than doubling his attempts.
Khalifa is a great fit on this BYU team. Offensively, he can play on the floor with Atiki or Fouss due to his ability to stretch the floor. His passing ability will also add new wrinkles to the BYU offense. What’s notable is that Khalifa’s turnover percentage last year was lower than any BYU player. His decision making will add a new layer to BYU’s offense and allow BYU to run a lot of their offense through Khalifa. The Big 12 is full of big and athletic big men, so having a five man like Khalifa will allow BYU to differentiate itself a little bit from other teams in the conference.
Defensively, Khalifa needs to work on his lateral quickness and improve his conditioning. He will struggle at times playing athletic five men and switching onto guards. But you know what — BYU won’t get many players that can do everything. Khalifa does a lot of things really well and makes this BYU team better. I anticipate him starting at the five, which will allow him to stay in the paint more than if he was a four man. Atiki will help compensate for some of Khalifa’s defensive deficiencies, and coaches will need to figure out how to make things work defensively when he plays with Fouss. Having Aly in the mix will allow Fouss to focus all offseason on playing the four spot.
I really like this pickup for BYU. BYU won’t beat Big 12 teams by being more athletic, so they need other ways to differentiate themselves. Having a skilled big man like Khalifa that can pass and shoot as well as he does gives BYU mismatch opportunities. He’s not just another Noah Waterman, either. Both can shoot, but do it in different ways. Noah is more catch-and-shoot, Khalifa is pick-and-pop. Khalifa can also score in the post, pass, and rebound well enough.
What’s also notable in this recruitment is that BYU was even able to get Khalifa. BYU wouldn’t have been able to get Aly last year. The Big 12 and NIL made a difference here. Florida wanted Aly — he took an official visit to Gainesville and had a nice NIL offer had he gone there. Sources close to Aly tell me that other schools such as Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Vanderbilt, and Colorado wanted Khalifa in for an official visit, but he decided from the beginning that he would only take an official visit to two schools.
BYU’s coaching staff did a terrific job recruiting Khalifa. They showed him the fit in the offense, Pope had an hour zoom call with Khalifa just talking his Muslim background, and Pope even fasted with Khalifa for a day during his official visit to support Aly during Ramadan. BYU has real NIL efforts in place, and that made a difference here and allowed BYU to be competitive with Florida.
You can watch highlights below of the “Egyptian Magician.”