COUGAR TRACKS

BYU’s Atiki Ally Atiki Starting To Show Flashes Of His Potential

Jan 9, 2022, 2:19 PM
BYU Basketball - Atiki Ally Atiki...
PROVO, UT - JANUARY 8: Tommy Kuhse #12 of the St. Marys Gaels is pressured by Atiki Ally Atiki #4 of the BYU Cougars during the first half of their game January 8, 2022 at the Marriott Center in Provo, Utah. (Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images)
(Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images)

PROVO, Utah – When BYU basketball landed a commitment from 6-foot-9 Atiki Ally Atiki, the college hoops world knew little about the Tanzania native.

Now 14 games in his first season at BYU, the London Basketball Academy (Canada) product is showing the main characteristic many used to describe him, potential.

BYU got a glimpse into the potential of Atiki Ally Atiki on Saturday night during a grind-it-out, defensive 52-43 victory over WCC rival Saint Mary’s. Atiki put together his best game as a Cougar, recording three blocks in 14 minutes of action against one of the most seasoned frontcourts the WCC has to offer this season.

Beyond the box score, “AAA’s” (his nickname around the program) physical frame that features a 7-foot-2 wingspan was a presence altering decisions made by the methodical Saint Mary’s offense.

Coming into his freshman season at BYU, the ideal route for Atiki –who turned down scholarship offers from Oklahoma and San Diego State— likely would have been to learn under the likes of Richard Harward and Gavin Baxter from the sideline. Instead, Harward and Baxter were sidelined as they both saw their 2021-22 seasons cut short due to injuries.

That changed the complete trajectory for Atiki’s first season in Provo.

Atiki, who only played in 28 organized basketball games before arriving at BYU, suddenly needed to be a key rotation piece for Mark Pope’s team striving to earn another at-large bid in the NCAA Tournament.

“It’s night and day. I’m so proud of him,” said BYU guard Te’Jon Lucas on the growth Atiki has made since his first practice in September. “He was out there playing with force [against Saint Mary’s], you know, being out there talking screens out, blocking shots, making jump hooks. We’re just getting the start of what he’s going to be.”

 

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Along with his growth on the floor, Atiki has also been learning the English language. A member of the Muslim faith, Atiki speaks Swahili.

When Baxter went down during BYU’s loss against UVU on December 1, Atiki was thrown into the fire against a future NBA big man in Fardaws Aimaq. Moments like that one could have shaken the young big man’s confidence. But for a guy who loves the Mission Impossible movies, he’s starting to make an impossible situation appear manageable. Atiki is now making his impact on a program that strives for “turning frustration into fight.”

“The last couple minutes against Pacific, he played the last two minutes and 30 seconds; he was unbelievable. Like, he was so good. Then tonight [against Saint Mary’s], he was flawless on the defensive end,” said BYU coach Mark Pope.

The challenges will only get more difficult for BYU and Atiki, both short-term and into the future, as they first gear up for a weekend road trip to Gonzaga and San Francisco this week. Then life in the Big 12 (beginning in 2023), where Atiki will have a chance to be a foundational piece for BYU’s first taste into a power league. Like the car service, when you’ve broken down on the side of the highway, BYU is ready to make that call to their young big man.

“I’m just so proud of him because he’s been working hard in practice and so now he’s able to come out in the game and show it You can’t ask enough of Atiki. He’s a great guy, a great listener, and you know he’s been playing hard,” said Lucas. “‘AAA’ you can always rely on him.”

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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