COUGAR TRACKS

Breaking Down BYU Basketball’s Best Recruits/Transfers Since 2000

Apr 12, 2022, 7:51 PM | Updated: 8:08 pm
BYU Basketball - Jimmer Fredette - Rafael Araujo - Alex Barcello...
Some of the great BYU basketball pickups in the 21st century in Rafael Araujo (left), Jimmer Fredette (middle), Alex Barcello (right). (Photos courtesy of the Deseret News)
(Photos courtesy of the Deseret News)

PROVO, Utah – Another BYU basketball Signing Day is upon us. During the 21st century, BYU has signed some of the program’s best players.

In honor of Signing Day, I’m taking a look back at the best recruit or transfer from each of BYU’s recruiting classes dating back to 2000.

I included transfers because the Transfer Portal makes up a significant portion of what teams like BYU do in their recruiting classes. Also, some of the best players BYU has added were via the transfer market.

2000: Travis Hansen | Guard/Forward | Utah Valley State College

The recruiting haul Steve Cleveland and his staff pulled in for the 2000 recruiting class hovered around the Top 25 classes in the nation. Next to Oregon’s class that featured Luke Ridnour, BYU’s class was the second-best out west.

McDonald’s All-American Garner Meads headlined it from Brighton, who picked BYU over Utah and Stanford.

The Cougars also had a commitment from Danny Ainge’s son, Austin Ainge. Along with big men Jesse Pinegar and Derek Dawes. It was a star-studded group for a program that was only a handful of years removed from a one-win season.

The player with the least hype in that class who ended up being the best was Travis Hansen from UVSC (now Utah Valley University). Proving that sometimes the recruiting hype in those early internet days was not always what they were cracked up to be.

Hansen was an explosive playmaker in his three years with the Cougars. After his time at BYU, Hansen was selected in the second round of the 2003 NBA Draft.

2001: Jimmy Balderson | Guard | Magrath High School (Canada)

Balderson began his career at BYU as a walk-on. He immediately carved out a role in BYU’s rotation finding time in 25 games his freshman season. He served a mission for the Church and then returned as a starter. Balderson started in 56 games during his final three years at BYU.

In his sophomore season in 2004-05, the last of the Steve Cleveland era, Balderson shot 42.3% from three-point range.

2002: Rafael Araujo | Center | Arizona Western College

During the 2002 recruiting period, BYU pulled in one of the top JUCO prospects in the country when they signed 6-foot-11 Rafael Araujo. Araujo, who typically was known as “Baby,” picked BYU over UNLV during the early signing period.

 

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Araujo’s head coach at Arizona Western College had a connection to BYU assistant (at the time) Dave Rose, and the relationship started from there. Schools like Kentucky and Kansas also showed interest in Araujo. Araujo garnered some national attention from SLAM Magazine being dubbed as a prospect who had “great potential.”

At BYU, Araujo realized his potential becoming an immediate force in the post. In only his third game as a Cougar, Araujo scored 31 points against Boise State, then four days later against nationally-ranked Oklahoma State at the Delta Center, he scored a career-high 32.

Araujo averaged 18.2 points and 10.1 rebounds in his senior year in 2003-04. After that season, he became an NBA Lottery pick selected by the Toronto Raptors as the 8th overall pick.

2003: Mike Hall | Guard | Dixie State College

When Travis Hansen graduated, BYU basketball was left with big shoes to fill at the shooting guard spot. In comes Dixie State transfer Mike Hall. The high-flying 6-foot-3 guard picked BYU over offers from Oregon and Washington State.

Hall ended up at Dixie State after beginning his collegiate career at WCC’s Pepperdine University.

At BYU, Hall filled the role they had set for him to become the immediate starting two-guard on an NCAA Tournament team.

During his two years at BYU, Hall started in 56 games. His best moment at BYU was a highlight dunk against Air Force in 2005, where he posterized Air Force star, Nick Welch.

2004: Lee Cummard | Guard | Mesa High School (Arizona)

Former BYU coach Steve Cleveland would tell you he recruited Lee Cummard for years. Getting Cummard to sign on the dotted line to BYU was a big deal. Cummard, a 6-foot-7 guard from Arizona, was a top-100 recruit by some services. He turned down Arizona State, Oregon, and UCLA to sign with BYU.

Cummard was expected to make an immediate impact on the 2004-05 team, but he opted to serve a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints before enrolling. That decision was a big reason BYU only won nine games that season in Cleveland’s final year.

But Cummard wasted no time to make an immediate impact when he returned from the mission. Cummard started in 112 games during his BYU career and finished with 1,569 points in his career. That’s good for 16th all-time in scoring in BYU basketball history.

Cummard led BYU to three consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances at the beginning of the Dave Rose tenure from 2006 to 2009. Throughout his career, he was close to being a 50-40-90 player.

Since his playing days concluded, Cummard has become a coach. He was an assistant under Dave Rose for a year with the men’s basketball team. Now he’s an assistant with the women’s basketball program.

2005: Jackson Emery | Guard | Lone Peak High School

After Jackson Emery’s junior season at Lone Peak High School, BYU coaches told him to go to Snow College to develop. Then he would have a chance to get on at BYU. Instead, as he did throughout his basketball career, Emery proved everyone wrong.

During his senior year at LP, Emery became the best basketball player in Utah in 2005. BYU, now led by Dave Rose, couldn’t hold off on offering Emery a scholarship, who always dreamed of playing for the Cougars.

Emery showed flashes of his potential during his freshman season in 2006. Then when he came back from serving his mission for the Church, he and superstar Jimmer Fredette formed one of the best backcourts in BYU basketball history.

It was the definition of yin and yang. Fredette was the high-powered scorer, while Emery became the Mountain West Conference’s best defender. Emery earned defensive player of the year honors in 2011 and was an All-MWC Second Team performer in his final two years in Provo in 2010 and 2011.

2006: Jonathan Tavernari | Guard/Forward | Bishop Gorman H.S. (Nevada)

Jonathan Tavernari was a big pull for Dave Rose’s coaching staff. Tavernari was a heralded player from Nevada who averaged 20 and 10 at rising powerhouse Bishop Gorman High.

Tavernari was part of a four-year stretch of BYU hoops that included four NCAA Tournament appearances, three Mountain West Conference championships, and an NCAA Tournament win in 2010.

The 6-foot-6 sharp-shooter scored a career-high 29 points in a win over No. 7 Louisville in 2008.

Tavernari finished his BYU career with 1,519 points, good for 17th all-time in BYU basketball history.

“JT” flourished in Dave Rose’s up-tempo offense, knocking down 257 three-pointers during his four years at BYU.

2007: Jimmer Fredette | Guard | Glens Falls H.S. (New York)

The signing of Jimmer Fredette didn’t conjure up the headlines as some recruits have drawn over the years, but it sure proved to be a massive get for BYU basketball.

Fredette needs no introduction; he’s one of the two greatest players in BYU basketball history. Danny Ainge is the only man who could claim to have a more prolific career than Fredette. That’s an elite company.

You would have never realized that outcome based on Fredette’s recruitment coming out of tiny Glens Falls High School in New York. Fredette had narrowed down his schools to BYU and Siena. Siena was coached by Fran McCaffrey, who is now the headman at Iowa.

Fredette ultimately signed with BYU after an official visit in 2006 that included a visit to a BYU football game against Tulsa.

During Fredette’s first season, he didn’t start any games for BYU. But the 2008 NCAA Tournament game against Texas A&M proved that Fredette was the star of the future for BYU hoops. In a game where A&M jumped out to an 11-0 lead, Fredette came off the bench and gave BYU a spark in a game the Cougars ultimately lost. But the future was oh so bright.

The casuals would tell you that Jimmermania began in 2011 after his halfcourt shot against Utah, but the die-hards would say it was his sophomore season at San Diego State.

Jimmer dropped 28 points on the Aztecs in front of a hostile Viejas Crowd that saw BYU close out the game on a 15-0 run to defeat the Aztecs 69-59.

The rest was a storybook for Fredette as he set the McKale Center record for most points by a player with 49 against Arizona.

In March Madness, he became a key personality, pouring in 37 points in a double-overtime win over Florida to end BYU’s long losing streak in the NCAA Tournament.

His senior year was the stuff of legends, with Kevin Durant, Nelly, Chad Johnson, and celebrities worldwide chiming in on their favorite player.

Fredette went on to win the Naismith Award given to College Basketball’s best player in 2011. He led BYU to their first Sweet 16 appearance in 30 years.

Fredette became an NBA Lottery Pick in the 2011 draft when he was selected by the Milwaukee Bucks, who later traded the BYU star to the Sacramento Kings.

2008: Charles Abouo | Guard/Forward | Cote d’Ivoire

Abouo was a key piece on some great BYU basketball teams. During BYU’s Sweet 16 campaign in 2011, Abouo started in 22 games averaging 20.9 minutes per game.

During his freshman season, Abouo was inserted into a late-game situation against No. 20 Arizona State, and he knocked down what appeared to be a game-winning basket to give BYU the victory. Referees overturned the basket.

Abouo was a leader in BYU’s first season in the West Coast Conference, starting in all 34 games, including an appearance in the Round of 64 in the NCAA Tournament. Abouo averaged 11 points. 6.3 rebounds and 2.6 assists that season.

2009: Tyler Haws | Guard | Lone Peak High

Tyler Haws was a big pull for BYU on the recruiting trail in the 2009 recruiting class. The son of BYU great Marty Haws, Tyler Haws turned down Stanford and Utah to sign with BYU.

Haws was one of the best true freshmen in program history, starting in 32 games during the 2009-10 season that won a game in the NCAA Tournament.

After serving a two-year mission for the Church, Haws became BYU’s first star in the West Coast Conference era for the program. During his three years at BYU after a mission, Haws averaged 21.7, 23.2, and 22.2 points per game in those respective seasons.

Jimmer Fredette and Danny Ainge get a lot of the headlines asking who was the best player in BYU basketball history, but Tyler Haws is the man who left the school as the program’s all-time leading scorer at 2,720 points.

Haws had two games in his BYU career where he scored over 40 points. There was a 42-point performance at the Vivint Arena against Virginia Tech and a 48-point career-high night in the infamous “Bobby Sharp” game against Portland.

2010: Kyle Collinsworth | Guard | Provo High

Dave Rose and his staff were suddenly on a roll landing Utah’s top high school prospects when they signed Provo High’s Kyle Collinsworth. Collinsworth turned down Virginia’s newly hired Tony Bennett to sign with Rose and the BYU hoops program. USC was another program that was in the mix for Collinsworth.

At BYU, Collinsworth had a career that rewrote the NCAA record books. During his career with the Cougars, Collinsworth recorded 12 triple-doubles, an NCAA record.

What’s remarkable about that accomplishment is that KC did that in only 64 games. Collinsworth’s first triple-double was against Hawaii at Vivint Arena in December 2014. Collinsworth finished that junior season with six triple-doubles, tying the career-best mark set by Shaquille O’Neal and Michael Anderson from Drexel. Collinsworth quickly shattered that mark with another year of eligibility the following season.

Along with rewriting the NCAA record books, Collinsworth’s unique style also rewrote BYU history. Collinsworth set the single-season record for assists per game. In addition, he was BYU’s all-time leading rebounder at the time he graduated. The homegrown star also finished with 1,707 points, good for 13th all-time in school history.

2011: No one

DaMarcus Harrison signed in this class, but he only lasted one year before transferring to Clemson. However, he was a heralded recruit that had the potential to be the next star at BYU.

UCLA transfer Matt Carlino could technically fit in here, but he joined the team during the 2010-11 season winter semester after transferring from UCLA. Carlino had his sights set on becoming the next Jimmer in BYU’s up-tempo attack. He was a solid player in three years with BYU before moving to Marquette for his grad transfer season.

2012: No one

Would you consider Raul Delgado or Agustin Ambrosino star pickups? Probably not.

2013: Eric Mika | Center | Lone Peak High

Once a water boy at Lone Peak after transferring from the Waterford School, Mika became one of the nation’s top high school recruits in the class of 2013. Mika was part of the dominant Lone Peak teams that claimed high school national championships. Or more commonly known as the “Lone Peak Three” with him, Nick Emery, and T.J. Haws.

Mika had the least hype out of the three players, despite being the highest rated by the recruiting services.

Mika, a 6-foot-10 big man, made an early commitment to BYU and stayed loyal to the Cougars despite the increased attention as his stardom grew at Lone Peak.

Since the year 2000, Mika is the highest-rated recruit BYU basketball has signed. Mika finished with a 0.9861 rating from the industry-standard 247Sports Composite ratings.

Mika played two seasons for the Cougars in 2013-14 and the 2016-17 seasons during his BYU career. During his sophomore season, coming off of a mission, Mika was one of the best big men in college basketball, scoring 20.3 points and pulling down 9.2 rebounds per game.

After his sophomore year, Mika declared for the NBA draft and didn’t return to BYU. However, he appeared in one NBA game with the Sacramento Kings.

Mika is still playing professional basketball overseas with JL Bourg in France.

2014: T.J. Haws | Guard | Lone Peak High

BYU began recruiting T.J. Haws when he was in 8th grade. Dave Rose and his staff knew that Haws would be a special player, just like his dad Marty and older brother Tyler.

T.J. committed to BYU the same day as Lone Peak teammate Nick Emery giving the Cougars the hope of a trio that would get them to a Final Four. The New York Times was even buying into the hype of how good these Lone Peak teams were from Utah.

Well, it didn’t quite work out that way. But, Haws became a special player at BYU, especially his senior year under head coach Mark Pope.

Haws scored 1,899 points through four seasons, good for seventh all-time in BYU basketball history.

During his final year in 2019-20, Haws produced some memorable moments. Headlined by a game-winning shot over Saint Mary’s on the night his wife was scheduled to be induced to have their first child.

With their NCAA Tournament hopes on the line, BYU was on the road at San Diego, and Haws found Yoeli Childs on an alley-oop at the end of the game to give BYU the 72-71 victory. A win that kept their single-digit seed hopes alive.

Haws ultimately never got the chance to play in the NCAA Tournament due to the COVID-19 pandemic that took away the 2020 NCAA Tournament.

Since his days at BYU have ended, Haws has been in the NBA G-League with the Lakeland Magic.

2015: Elijah Bryant | Guard | Elon

It’s not often that BYU gets in recruiting battles with Butler. But that was the case to land the coveted transfer Elijah Bryant from Elon. Long before the Transfer Portal was a thing, Bryant was a heralded transfer that was the CAA Freshman of the Year at Elon.

Bryant ultimately signed with BYU and became a star player for the Cougars.

During his first year in Provo, Bryant had to redshirt due to old-school transfer rules that everyone has quickly forgotten about these days. Then in his first season playing at BYU, Bryant was inserted into the starting lineup at the end of the season, where he began to take off. In a win over Portland, Bryant scored a career-high 39 points showing his ability to get buckets.

Then the following year in his junior season, with Heath Schroyer on the staff, Bryant hovered around 50-40-90 metrics while also creating content off the court with his wife for their vlog.

Bryant had 14 games where he scored over 20 points and led BYU to a 24-win season that was 20 minutes away from punching a bid to the NCAA Tournament before Gonzaga ultimately won in the WCC Tournament Championship Game.

After his successful junior campaign, Bryant declared for the NBA draft and did not return to BYU with a degree in hand. Instead, Bryant began playing overseas in Israel before finding a role with the Milwaukee Bucks on their NBA Championship team last season.

Bryant is back playing overseas with the Anadolu Efes in Turkey.

2016: Yoeli Childs | Forward | Bingham High

When Yoeli Childs’ career came to a close at BYU, he became one of the most beloved players in Cougar basketball history.

Childs had his recruitment down to BYU and Auburn coming out of Bingham High School. Auburn, coached by Bruce Pearl, was on the rise, but after an official visit to BYU that included a trip to the crazy BYU football win over Boise State, Childs picked BYU.

It was a surprising pickup as Non-LDS athletes from Utah are typically some of the most challenging recruits to land at BYU. Childs’ mother, Kara, didn’t want Childs to go to BYU initially because she didn’t want him to convert to the Church. However, he still signed with BYU and later converted to the Church with his mom’s blessing.

At BYU, it didn’t take long for Childs to emerge as a critical player in BYU’s frontcourt. Childs started in 26 games as a true freshman during the 2016-17 season alongside Eric Mika in the post. In his first season with the Cougars, Childs averaged 9.3 points and 8.2 rebounds per game.

Then in his sophomore year, he took off, averaging 18.1 points and 8.7 boards. The rise continued to grow during his junior season as he poured in 21.2 points and 9.7 boards each night.

But after the third year of his collegiate career, and with Dave Rose retiring, Childs declared for the NBA draft.

When Mark Pope was hired as BYU’s head coach, Childs became Pope’s biggest recruiting target. He convinced Childs to return for one final season and give Pope a star big man in the post. The only problem was that the debut would be delayed by nine games.

With new NCAA rules that allowed NBA draft prospects to hire agents while still maintaining their college eligibility, Childs needed to file the correct paperwork. Apparently, the NCAA deemed his paperwork filing as a suspendable offense. Meanwhile, blueblood programs around the country were staring down FBI probes.

Initially, Yoeli was going to be suspended for the entire year by the NCAA, but instead, the NCAA dropped it to nine games.

Childs played 19 games in his final year at BYU, and he was elite, averaging 22.2 points and nine rebounds per game. He finished his BYU career as the school’s all-time leading rebounder, passing Kyle Collinsworth.

After his BYU days concluded prematurely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Childs turned his attention to pro basketball, where he has emerged as a star (no pun intended) with the hometown Salt Lake City Stars in the NBA G League.

2017: Jahshire Hardnett | Guard | Chipola College

Hardnett was a guard for some lean years of BYU basketball. The 6-foot guard began his college basketball career at Fordham, then went the JUCO route to Chipola College before settling at BYU for two seasons.

Hardnett was a good defensive guard who had moments of brilliance on the offensive end. He scored a career-high 24 points in a loss at Weber State. During his final season at BYU in 2019, his minutes fell off. There was speculation in that season that he abruptly left the team due to his diminished minutes.

Hardnett stayed with the team while dealing with a hand injury but then moved on to UMKC as a grad transfer after the season.

2018: No one

The only signee in the 2018 class was Timpview’s Hunter Erickson. Erickson is now in the NCAA’s Transfer Portal.

2019: Alex Barcello | Guard | Arizona

When Mark Pope was at Utah Valley University, he saw Alex Barcello at an AAU tournament and thought that Alex Barcello would be a perfect fit in my system.

Well, Barcello, an Arizona native, didn’t end up playing for UVU. He instead signed with the Arizona Wildcats, but after a few years with the hometown team and his confidence in basketball shaken, Barcello aligned with Pope and BYU. It ended up being a perfect match.

Barcello started and played in all 94 games that Pope has coached at BYU the past three years.

The 6-foot-2, 192-pound guard finished his BYU career with 1,319 points, putting him at No. 25 on the all-time scoring list in BYU basketball history. Barcello was an honorable mention All-American in the 2020-21 season, guiding BYU to a No. 6 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

This past year, Barcello averaged 16.8 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 3.3 assists per game in a season where he took advantage of the extra year of eligibility granted by the NCAA due to the pandemic. ESPN’s Jay Bilas crowned Barcello as the best shooter in America during the season. He finished the year shooting 42.1% from three-point range.

Barcello now plans to pursue a career in the NBA.

2020: Matt Haarms | Center | Purdue

Matt Haarms was one of the most coveted players in the Transfer Portal during the 2020 cycle. Every school around the country was hoping to schedule a Zoom call with the 7-foot-3 center from Purdue.

 

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Haarms took an early call from BYU’s coaching staff, which was a big win for Pope and his team to get a crack at one of the best prospects around, then he zeroed in on committing to BYU over offers from Kentucky and Texas Tech.

Haarms gave BYU their tallest big man since the days of Shawn Bradley. In his one year at BYU, Haarms earned WCC Defensive Player of the Year averaging nearly two blocks per game. He had two games where he had five blocks.

Mark Pope recruited Haarms to return to BYU for one more season to take advantage of the extra COVID year. But Haarms opted to pursue a pro career. The big man from Amsterdam is currently playing overseas with the Fraport Skyliners in Germany.

2021: Fousseyni Traore | Forward | Wasatch Academy

Fousseyni Traore is in the beginning stages of his BYU basketball career. But it’s safe to say there’s a bright future ahead for the Mali native.

Traore signed with BYU over an offer from Seton Hall out of Wasatch Academy. BYU’s coaching staff, led by Mark Pope, offered Traore during their first summer leading the Cougar basketball program. They looked at Traore with the potential of being the next Yoeli Childs.

 

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After one season as a full-time starter, he’s well on his way toward that type of trajectory.

During the 2021-22 season, Traore averaged 9.6 points and 8.5 rebounds in 33 games, including 21 starts.

It wasn’t the role that Mark Pope envisioned for Traore in year one. But after Gavin Baxter and Richard Harward were lost to season-ending injuries, Traore had to step up in a big way.

Now Traore has the potential to be the foundational piece for BYU hoops into the Big 12 era beginning in 2023.

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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