COUGAR TRACKS

BYU’s 2022-23 Basketball Roster Looks To Bring Back ‘BLRA’

Jun 28, 2022, 4:38 PM | Updated: 4:42 pm
BYU Basketball Roster, Mark Pope, 2022-23...
Head coach Mark Pope has his scholarship spots filled for the BYU Basketball roster entering the 2022-23 season. (Laura Seitz, Deseret News)
(Laura Seitz, Deseret News)

PROVO, UtahΒ – In the era of dynamic rosters, for now, the BYU basketball roster appears to have its scholarship spots filled for the 2022-23 season.

After finishing last year with a 24-11 record and an appearance in the NIT, BYU looks to return to the NCAA Tournament. The offseason hasn’t always gone smoothly, but fourth-year head coach Mark Pope remained optimistic about putting together a tournament-caliber roster through it.

“Recruiting is always so incredibly complicated and this portal has made it so much more complicated. But it is an incredible opportunity. I do believe that,” said Pope. “I believe the greatest chaos can be unsettling, but it is like a ripe field for opportunity.”

The ripe field turned into Coastal Carolina guard Rudi Williams, who emerged as one of the nation’s best three-point shooters a season ago.

Braeden Moore, a former Rutgers commit, who had a long list of Power Five suitors, pulled down some intriguing headlines with his connection to Kanye West’s Donda Academy.

Jaxson Robinson from Arkansas is a former top-100 recruit that has yet to crack into a rotation at his first two SEC stops. Then Noah Waterman from Detroit Mercy is a 6-foot-11 big man who can also play guard.

Will “BLRA” (Best Locker Room in America) return?

The field was definitely ripe. But can they come together and restore BYU’s “Best Locker Room in America” mantra? Or more commonly known around the Marriott Center Annex as “BLRA?”

That’s the real question because that seemed to be lacking last season as BYU finished the final two months without a win over a Quad 1 or Quad 2 opponent. A far cry from how they opened the season, climbing to No. 12 in the AP Top 25 rankings after November.

“Everybody who wants to be here is here,” said BYU guard/forward Trevin Knell to KSL Sports. “I feel like we’re getting back to that best locker room in America. I feel like we kind of stepped away from that a little bit last year. But, this year, everybody’s bought in and we’re excited for the new guys that Coach Pope has recruited. It’s going to be an exciting year.”

When Pope conducted his exit interviews in the spring, “BLRA” was an essential thing to both Pope and Knell, the last player who has been with Pope every year since he took over in 2019.

“I kind of see myself as a guy that kind of gets along with everybody on the team. Me and Coach Pope definitely talked about the dynamic of the locker room and how we can make it better and how we can get back to the first two years that I was here. We talked a lot, and we had a really long conversation about BLRA and how we can be more efficient next year. So I feel like we’re going to change a lot of things up this next coming season.”

Seven new players on the 2022-23 BYU Basketball roster

The roster alone lends itself to change. Seven of the scholarship players that make up the 2022-23 roster were not in the program last season.

Here’s a deeper look at the 2022-23 BYU basketball roster.

“Survivors” – BYU basketball players returning from last year’s roster

The BYU basketball players returning for the 2022-23 season created a group text amid all the uncertainty with the roster and called it “the survivors.” At one point, it was down to only five guys but picked back to six after Gideon George returned.

Gideon George | Forward

After going through the NBA draft process, George returns to BYU for one final season. For a brief moment, he was in the Transfer Portal, set to explore other options for his last year of college hoops. But Mark Pope and his staff stayed loyal to George throughout, and that trust in Pope led to George returning for one more year.

Last year, he took a jump in his game, improving his shooting percentages from the field, three-point range, and free throws. The question now is, is he ready to make a big enough leap to become an All-WCC performer this year?

Spencer Johnson | Guard

Johnson improved on the defensive end of the floor last year but had some slight dips on the offensive end. However, he could be due for a bounceback this year.

Trevin Knell | Guard

Alex Barcello told me last October without hesitation that Trevin Knell is the best shooter at BYU. When he’s on, Knell is lights out.

Fousseyni Traore | Forward/Center

BYU had its share of struggles last season. But imagine what those struggles would have been without the emergence of Fousseyni Traore as a freshman. The former Wasatch Academy star became an instant favorite among BYU fans.

He has the potential to be an all-time talent in BYU basketball history. Last year, in a win over Pepperdine, he scored 25 points and pulled down 19 rebounds.

To go along with his success on the basketball floor, he was a 4.0 student in his first entire semester at BYU.

Atiki Ally Atiki | Forward/Center

Atiki Ally Atiki, or “Triple-A,” as his BYU teammates call him, has endless potential. The 6-foot-9, 213-pound big man appeared in 32 games as a freshman last season. It was probably a shock to the system for Atiki, as he had only played 28 organized games in his young basketball career before arriving at BYU.

But through that first season, there were glimpses of his ceiling, which is sky-high. For example, in a loss to NCAA Tournament team San Francisco, Atiki had 10 points, four rebounds, and four blocks in only 21 minutes of action.

With BYU’s limited options in the frontcourt, his availability will be critical.

Trey Stewart | Guard

Stewart will likely make his mark on the rotation due to his play on the defensive end. His offensive game is a question, but BYU might not need it for this team that appears to have an improved cast of offensive personnel this year.

Former BYU guard Te’Jon Lucas spoke glowingly of the work Stewart put in on the scout team to help the first unit prepare for games.

Transfer Portal additions

Here’s a quick hit look at BYU’s transfer portal additions.

Rudi Williams | Guard | Coastal Carolina

Pope needed a veteran in the backcourt; he got it in Rudi Williams. Williams’ final college stop lands him in Provo after previously playing JUCO ball, then Kansas State, and Coastal.

Jaxson Robinson | Guard | Arkansas

Robinson will need a waiver to play this season after using his one-time undergrad waiver after moving from Texas A&M to Arkansas. But adding a guard/small forward who, at one point, everyone in the Big 12 wanted, you take that chance.

Noah Waterman | Forward | Detroit Mercy

A 6-foot-11 forward, who can stretch the floor and knock down threes, BYU hasn’t seen many players like that roll through the Marriott Center.

High School Signing

Braeden Moore | Guard/Forward | Donda Academy

Moore held 19 scholarship offers from Power Six programs. Once a Rutgers commit, Moore fits the “positionless basketball” tagline as he can play a variety of spots.

Returned Missionaries

Dallin Hall | Guard | Fremont High

The man Donovan Mitchell called a “hooper,” Hall averaged 22.9 points, 6.8 assists, 7.8 rebounds, and 1.9 steals per game in his senior year at Fremont to lead them to a state title.

Richie Saunders | Guard/Forward | Wasatch Academy

Saunders picked BYU over offers from Creighton, Oregon State, Utah, and Utah State.

Tanner Toolson | Guard | Union High School (Wash.)

Son of former BYU great Andy Toolson, Tanner, poured in 23 points per game to lead Union High to a 27-1 record his senior year.

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:Β @Mitch_Harper.

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BYU’s 2022-23 Basketball Roster Looks To Bring Back ‘BLRA’