COUGAR TRACKS

BYU Basketball Roster Analysis For First Season As Big 12 Team

Nov 5, 2023, 5:03 PM

PROVO, Utah – Whether they are ready or not, the BYU Basketball roster gets set for year one as a Big 12 team.

Head coach Mark Pope enters his fifth season guiding the program. It’s been three years since BYU was last in the NCAA Tournament.

The path to the Big Dance becomes more challenging as they get set for their first season in Big 12. But at the same time, the course is a tad easier as they no longer have to worry about loading up the non-conference to find Quad 1/Quad 2 opportunities.

Those games are already built in every night in America’s toughest conference in eight of the last ten seasons.

Pope was determined to play the “long game” when reshaping his program. It started last year with getting a bunch of underclassmen with the focus on bringing them back to tip-off the Big 12 era.

The key pieces from last year’s team are primarily all back except Rudi Williams and Gideon George.

So here’s a look at BYU basketball’s roster as they get set for year one as a Big 12 program.

Key Players on the BYU Basketball Roster

Dallin Hall | Guard | Sophomore

Hall enters the season on a “day-to-day” status due to an injury. But he’s expected back any day now. When he clears protocols, Hall will lead this BYU basketball team.

The former Fremont High star flashed his potential during a freshman campaign that included a handful of game-winning shots. But there were also reminders that he was only a true freshman, months removed from serving a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Hall needs to improve shooting the three. Last year, he was 36% from distance; that needs to go up this season. He dished out 3.2 assists while averaging 7.3 points per game.

Hall’s goal when committing to BYU was to play the greatest talent in the world. He wants to be an NBA player one day. Playing in the Big 12 will give him nightly battles against the best this league offers.

Hall has emerged as one of the leaders in the program as BYU gets set for its inaugural season as a Big 12 team.

Fousseyni Traore | Forward | Junior 

Last year was a transition in so many ways for BYU basketball. No one that represented that more was Traore.

Look, the production was still impressive for being a 6-foot-6 forward playing the five spot. Traore averaged 12.9 points and 7.8 rebounds per game. But Traore was dealing with various nagging injuries that limited him from being at his best last year.

 

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He dealt with a hamstring that lingered into the non-conference and then he dealt with other injuries that occurred from being the No. 1 player on a scouting report for opponents.

Traore is healthy entering this season. He’s improved his mid-range shooting ability and is still lights out around the basket.

Traore has already started 54 games in his BYU career and the best is still yet to come for him in his career.

Potential X-Factors

Jaxson Robinson | Guard | Senior

Despite being listed year as a sophomore, Robinson opted to be classified as a senior this year. So if it’s the final year for the former Texas A&M and Arkansas transfer, it has to be an impactful one.

The key for Robinson this year to make an impact is from three. Robinson isn’t shy about taking threes. He attempted 178 last season. But he only knocked down 34.3% of his attempts.

Robinson is comfortable in this program after a full year in the mix. Last year was a feeling-out process, as was the case for so many on last year’s team. He has a more prominent voice on this year’s team. There’s chemistry with this group of players that should allow him to think less and just play.

During BYU’s foreign tour, Robinson was the best player on the floor. Robinson sometimes operated in the point guard position for BYU’s attack. The 6-foot-7 Robinson can pose a lot of matchup nightmares if his contributions are delivered on a nightly basis.

Spencer Johnson | Guard | Senior

Johnson, when he was healthy last season, was one of the only players that gave BYU consistent production on a nightly basis. Some of Johnson’s best games last season were against high-profile opponents Gonzaga and USC.

Johnson averaged 11.1 points and 3.6 rebounds, 1.8 assists, and 1.6 steals per game. He’s got a career three-point field goal percentage of 42.2%, that’s good for eighth in program history.

Dawson Baker | Guard | Junior

UC Irvine transfer Dawson Baker was one of the top players in training camp until he was sidelined with an injury. When KSL Sports asked Mark Pope if Baker would be out for all of non-conference play, Pope gave a vague, “I don’t know” answer.

That would be a significant loss for BYU if Baker is out for an extended period of time. Because he competes at a high level, is a good passer, and can knock down the three.

Baker was an All-Big West Second-Team selection for the Anteaters last season. He was lightly recruited by BYU coming out of high school, but he fulfilled a dream of playing for BYU after three years at UC Irvine.

Which BYU basketball player takes the biggest leap?

Atiki Ally Atiki | Forward | Junior

Richie Saunders | Guard | Sophomore

Noah Waterman | Forward | Senior

If BYU basketball is going to be a “tough out” every night in the Big 12, they will need these three players to step up in a big way.

BYU coach Mark Pope decided to run it back with the majority of his roster from last year. That’s because he believes in the personnel he has to develop and grow within his program.

These three have to take jumps in their development.

Atiki Ally Atiki is still young in the basketball world, but it’s year three at BYU. The time is now for him to realize his immense potential. At 6-foot-10, 220 pounds, Atiki has the size and athleticism to be a rim protector on the defensive end.

 

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But Atiki has shown, at times, to be wreckless on the floor by committing frustration-filled fouls or loose with the basketball. Cleaning up those mistakes will be critical for him to earn a consistent role in the rotation.

Richie Saunders needs to be utilized more for BYU this season. His minutes were a roller coaster ride last season. Saunders, along with Dallin Hall’s game-winner, were critical to BYU upsetting nationally-ranked Creighton last season.

That breakthrough against Creighton looked to be a moment to have a larger role and it never materialized in WCC play.

Saunders has the potential to be a starter for BYU in the future. This is an important year in that growth.

Noah Waterman has garnered some buzz during training camp for his improved play. In BYU’s exhibition win over an NAIA squad, he grabbed eight rebounds. At the Midnight Madness event, he was the only BYU player to knock down an entire rack of balls in the three-point shooting contest.

If Waterman can be a threat on the glass while also shooting with confidence from three, he’s going to be in the rotation every night.

Biggest mystery 

Aly Khalifa | Center | Junior

Khalifa picked BYU over Florida while he was in the Transfer Portal. It was an essential addition for BYU as they needed to add more size to their frontcourt, allowing Traore to move to the four instead of the five.

Khalifa is a skilled big man with great instincts to pass the ball. He also can force defenders to guard on the perimeter because of his ability to shoot from beyond the arc.

But the big question is, will his style of play fit in a BYU program that strives to be an uptempo attack? Khalifa was part of the slowest-paced team in college hoops last year at Charlotte. He suffered an injury to his knee in the summer that sidelined him for the foreign tour to Croatia and Italy. Then, his debut in front of BYU fans in the exhibition was a bit of a feeling-out game. He had three assists but committed two turnovers.

If Khalifa can emerge as the starting five, that would be a significant development for BYU basketball.

Specialists

Trey Stewart | Guard | Junior

Trevin Knell | Guard | Redshirt Junior

Every good team needs specialists in order to have a successful season. BYU didn’t have many specialists a year ago as they had an up-and-down campaign winning only 19 games.

Trey Stewart on the defensive end and Trevin Knell shooting the three are what BYU needs from these guys this season.

Knell is finally healthy after dealing with shoulder injuries the past two seasons. The last time Trevin Knell was 100% healthy, he was burying five threes against the No. 1 ranked Gonzaga Bulldogs.

Treve Stewart can be a lockdown defender for BYU. It shows often in practices but hasn’t flashed enough in games.

Walk-on that could earn rotation minutes

Townsend Tripple | Forward | Redshirt Freshman

The best mustache since Zac Seljaas in the BYU basketball program belongs to returned missionary Townsend Tripple. Tripple is a redshirt freshman from Meridian, Idaho.

He was part of BYU’s program during the strange COVID year in 2020-21. So technically, he could be viewed as a true freshman, but BYU lists him as a redshirt freshman.

Tripple has size and his athleticism catches your attention when you watch him play. During a summer scrimmage, he had two highlight slam dunks that get people off their feet if it happened in a game at the Marriott Center.

The rest of BYU’s 2023-24 roster

Tredyn Christensen | Forward | Senior

Marcus Adams Jr. | Forward | Freshman

Tanner Hayhurst | Guard | Redshirt Freshman

Jared McGregor | Guard | Sophomore

The rest of this roster is walk-ons and heralded Top-50 transfer Marcus Adams Jr. It’s still unknown what Adams’ status will be this season regarding his NCAA waiver request. But his availability in training camp has been limited due to an injury.

When he’s cleared and able to play, he’s a bucket-getter that Mark Pope views as a Big 12 talent.

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 Mitch’s coverage of BYU in the Big 12 Conference on X and Threads: @Mitch_Harper.

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