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Spenser Heaps, Deseret News
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Pope Looking To Deliver Entertaining, Aggressive Style Of Play In Year One

Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

PROVO, Utah – BYU basketball head coach Mark Pope has had a lot of twists and turns in his program before coaching in his first game.

The first-year head man of the Cougars addressed the media on Wednesday to a variety of questions on BYU Basketball Media Day. One of the questions, what type of tempo and style of play will a Mark Pope-coached team look like?

“Well, I love to be aggressive. I think this game is meant to be played that way and the only reason I think this game is meant to be played like that is because it’s the only way I know how to play,” said Pope.

Since Pope was hired last April, he has made it clear, he doesn’t live in a world with realistic expectations. With only seven scholarship players currently available in practice, one would think expectations are tapered off. That hasn’t been the case with the always energetic Pope.

“We’ll be really aggressive. I think it’s entertaining and I think it’s fun for our guys to play that way,” Pope said. “So we’ll put as much pace into this game offensively and defensively as we can and we’re trying to find ways to do that with a modified roster and do it effectively. We certainly would like to put an entertaining and inspiring product on the floor.”

Last year, Pope’s Utah Valley University squad 65th nationally in scoring offense and 19th in three-point shooting.

Modified Roster

With Gavin Baxter potentially done for the season with a torn labrum injury, forward Zac Seljaas still sidelined with a foot injury, and guard TJ Haws recovering from a knee scope, BYU is down to only seven scholarship players in practice.

Is there any chance BYU could anyone between now and opening night against Cal State Fullerton? Short answer is no. Pope mentioned he and his staff have put out “fliers” to students around campus. Could that be in the form of reaching out to a guy like Braiden Shaw who’s still enrolled in school? Possibly. Shaw was recruited by Pope when he was an assistant on Dave Rose’s bench.

There is a shortage of big men currently on BYU’s roster that will be available on opening night. BYU’s top two front court players are senior Dalton Nixon and sophomore Kolby Lee who Pope said is going to “shock people.”

No Update on Waivers from NCAA

Pope had no new information on potential NCAA waivers for Utah Valley transfer Richard Harward or Arizona transfer Alex Barcello. Both players have applied for waivers to play immediately this season instead of sitting out per NCAA rules. Pope did note that he expects a decision potentially within the next month. But there is no set timeline as to when a decision will come.

Transfer Portal

BYU sophomore preferred walk-on Colby Leifson has entered the NCAA Transfer Portal. Leifson was at Media Day and participated in the afternoon portion of practice after reports surfaced that he was in the portal.

Leifson, who hails from the state of Georgia, committed to former head coach Dave Rose as a preferred walk-on. Instead of immediately serving a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Leifson played a season for BYU after a scholarship became available. Leifson then served a mission and returned for this season. Assistant coach Cody Fueger said last month Leifson is a “guy who is always working.”

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for KSLsports.com and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12-3 pm) on KSL Newsradio. Follow him on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper.

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