COUGAR TRACKS

Here Are Five Things We Learned From BYU Basketball Media Day

Oct 22, 2021, 2:43 AM
BYU Basketball - Mark Pope...
BYU basketball head coach Mark Pope chats with KSL Sports' Mitch Harper and Matt Baiamonte at Media Day on October 21, 2021. (Jaren Wilkey/BYU Photo)
(Jaren Wilkey/BYU Photo)

PROVO, Utah – The 2021-22 BYU basketball season is just around the corner. It’s year three for head coach Mark Pope, and it has the potential to be another team that exceeds everyone’s expectations with another NCAA Tournament bid.

Pope has overhauled the roster to create a deep, versatile group headlined by returning All-American Alex Barcello at guard. Barcello’s return paired with the additions of grad transfer Te’Jon Lucas and LSU transfer Seneca Knight give BYU a squad that, at a minimum, should be a must-watch out west.

How will it all come together? That’s the big question.

Media day is always a great place to answer many questions to try and piece together the story of this season’s squad. The annual event’s return took place at BYU Broadcasting with a practice afterward that was open to the media at the Marriott Center.

Here are five things we learned from the media extravaganza.

#1 Chemistry between Barcello & Lucas is coming along

How quickly the chemistry between Alex Barcello and Te’Jon Lucas comes together will be a big storyline entering the season. Coming out of Media Day, it’s nothing but praise for one another.

Barcello praised the playmaking ability of Lucas and the transfer from Milwaukee commended the leadership of the returning All-American guard.

Between the two of them, they bring 11 years of experience at the college level to BYU’s backcourt. They create one of the nation’s most experienced backcourts and give Mark Pope’s squad a chance to dream big this season potentially.

#2 Heralded newcomers picked BYU over bluebloods

When BYU joins the Big 12 Conference in 2023, Mark Pope and his staff can claim a recruiting win over Big 12 powerhouse Kansas. Grad transfer guard Te’Jon Lucas was offered by Kansas but committed to BYU.

Keep in mind, Kansas added guards Remy Martin from Arizona State and Jalen Coleman-Lands from Iowa State. But the fact that Lucas was on Bill Self’s radar, speaks to the type of talent he brings to Provo.

Lucas admired Pope and his staff’s honesty in the recruiting process while he was in the Transfer Portal.

But Lucas isn’t the only new face on the BYU roster that turned down a blueblood program to sign with the Cougars. Originally from Tanzania, Freshman Atiki Ally Atiki, who later played high school ball in Canada, had an offer from the Duke Blue Devils. He also held offers from Oklahoma and San Diego State.

What led the 6-foot-9 forward/center to pick BYU over Mike Krzyzewski’s Blue Devils?

“A lot of people be asking me, ‘Why you choose BYU over the other schools?’ I just said, I like the coaches and I like the program. I think it’s going to be a good place for me to get better,” Ally Atiki said.

Ally Atiki arrived at BYU two months ago. He’s a raw prospect, but his physical presence gives him a chance to contribute to the BYU frontcourt in year one.

#3 Caleb Lohner is embracing the role of a leader

Sophomore Caleb Lohner has a ton of potential in his BYU career. Former BYU center Matt Haarms said the 6-foot-8 forward’s ceiling is endless and that he could be a future NBA player. Lohner doesn’t shy away from making it known the NBA is his goal, but he appears to be entrenched in the opportunity to be a leader of the team alongside Alex Barcello.

The preseason First Team All-WCC selection has also made an effort to take a big step forward as a playmaker this year after a successful freshman campaign where he emerged as an elite rebounder.

#4 Trevin Knell, Gideon George appear poised to take the next step

Two returning players on BYU’s roster have the makings to take a big leap forward in their games. That’s Trevin Knell and Gideon George.

When I asked Alex Barcello who the best shooter on this year’s team is, he thought about it for a second, then promptly said, “Trevin.” Knell has one of the purest strokes you’ll find. Last year he was the WCC’s top three-point shooter in league play.

During practice with the media on hand, Knell was communicating with teammates if there were mistakes. That was something he started to begin showing a season ago, but now the confidence from last year’s conference season appears to carry over for him to take another step in his development.

The same can be said for Gideon George, who has added more muscle to his 6-foot-6, 210-pound frame. When mistakes took place from some of the younger players, George, a senior, was quick to help and point out those miscues and what needed to be done the next time.

George is likely an opening night starter for BYU basketball when they tip it off on November 9 against Cleveland State.

#5 Fouss Traore is the wild card for BYU basketball

If there’s a player that could be a wildcard in BYU’s rotation this season, it’s Fouss Traore from Wasatch Academy via Mali. Traore, a 6-foot-6 254-pound forward, grew up in a basketball family in Mali. His father is a basketball coach in his home country and his mother played hoops at a high level in Mali.

Mark Pope’s staff made Traore a top priority on the recruiting trail months before coaching a single game for the BYU basketball program. After completing his prep career at one of the nation’s top high school programs, Traore has the potential to be a rotation guy that gets run on a nightly basis this season.

During the practice on Thursday, Traore had a few possessions where he went up against roommate Ally Atiki and displayed nice touch around the rim. He also catches everything thrown his way, even in traffic, with his large hands.

Traore didn’t arrive at BYU with much fanfare, but he’s sure to win over a lot of fans in short order during his freshman season.

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

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