BYU Hoops Mailbag: Recruiting, Transfers, Training, Scheduling & More

A big part of BYU’s basketball offseason was confirmed when Kahil Fennell was hired as the new assistant to replace Chris Burgess. I’ll talk more about my thoughts on Fennell below, but I think he’s a great signing and ticks a lot of boxes of what BYU needs to break into the Big 12.

The main focus now is on filling the last two scholarships as BYU heads into the summer. Below are some of the questions you all asked me. Thanks again as always!

How will Kahil Fennell impact the team? What do you think he brings to the team? Any recruiting benefits?

Fennell has been at the top of my list for some time now. I detailed the hiring yesterday and mentioned Fennell on April 13th as a candidate as soon as the position opened. First, I like his past. Fennell is originally from Oakland, California and played his college ball in the same state. He began his career on the West Coast and was an assistant coach at Portland State under Barrett Peery for one year. He knows the state of California and the recruiting hotspots on the west coast. What I like best, though, is that he’s spent the last four seasons at an ACC power in Louisville. He was promoted to assistant coach last year and recruited from many of the same places BYU will play in the Big 12 – Texas, Ohio, Missouri, etc. He knows what it takes to recruit at the highest levels of college basketball.

Fennell will connect with all types of recruits. He is a racial minority and not a member of the LDS faith. BYU will need to break new ground in recruiting in the Big 12, and let’s face it, BYU is a strange place for a lot of people! Fennell can tell recruits, “Look, I had my reservations about coming to BYU. But I came to BYU for these reasons and that’s why I live here with my family. You too can fit in and thrive at BYU. I will be with you every step of the way.” BYU hasn’t had a coach who can throw that shot in a long time.

If Fennell was hired a month ago, I think he could have brought in some transfers to BYU. He would have helped with the chances of getting Fred King, as he was on the Louisville team when King committed there. I was also eyeing some specific recruits who had already committed elsewhere. I think that ship has mostly sailed this season, but she can close the deal with the recruits BYU is looking for and start building relationships for 2023 and beyond. He has recruited a lot of current players from other schools so this could be a factor in next season’s transfer portal.

What current transfer prospects are still being pursued? Who are we most likely to add to those last two places?

BYU has two fellowships to fill. I believe both will be players who can play in the frontcourt. BYU has Fouss and Atiki, but actually you want two more guys to go with them to feel good. New signing Braeden Moore is 6-8 and will be trained to play with all four, but ideally you play him on points because you choose, not because you have to.

I was keeping the first one a secret, but Kim Aiken Jr is already there publicly, so I’ll talk about him. National sports writer 247 Travis Branham dropped a crystal ball for Aiken at BYU on May 16. I mentioned a mystery recruit earlier this month from a former All-Conference player who visited BYU the weekend of May 7th. That player was Aiken.

Aiken was one of the top midrange players in East Washington, earning First Team All-Big Sky and Big Sky Defensive Player of the Year honors in the 2020-2021 season. The previous season, in his sophomore year, he was the Third Team All-Big Sky. Aiken is a versatile player who can play in positions 2, 3 or 4. In his last season in the EWU, he averaged 11.3 points, 8.3 rebounds, 1.3 steals and 1 block on 44% of ground shots, 30% depth and 82% free-throw line. In his sophomore season, he averaged 13.3 points and 9.7 rebounds on 33% shooting from three. He hit 76 three-pointers in his sophomore year and is a 33% career three-pointer.

The 6-foot-7 forward would be counted on to primarily play the four at BYU, which he largely played in eastern Washington. His versatility would give BYU coaches the opportunity to slide him into positions 2 and 3 as well.

Aiken absolutely has All-WCC potential. If he manages to clear the admissions part for graduate school, then I like BYU’s chances of catching him.

There’s also a second player I’ve got my eyes on. I won’t reveal his name just yet because he wants to stay under the radar for now, but he’s a big man on the BYU list that BYU has a good chance of getting. He was even signed to a Power Six Conference school but was unable to play due to reasons beyond his control. I’ll give more details when things are more public, but he would be a great piece for BYU and an immediate collaborator next season and heading to the Big 12. He’s a great athletic man who would fit perfectly in the Big 12.

Since Mo Njie committed to SMU, BYU has achieved several great men. I have to get one, but honestly I’m not too worried about BYU getting an impact guy who can play all five.

When are we expecting schedule announcements?

I wrote an article in early April outside of the conference schedule, and not much has really changed since then. One thing you can add is to change a road game in the state of San Diego from possible to practically a done deal. That gives BYU 10 non-conference games so far. Battle 4 Atlantis will have three resume building opportunities, Creighton might be a top 5 team, San Diego State will be a top 25, and then you have the in-state games. This is a very good basis for a non-conference agenda. The question is how many more games will BYU add. In recent years, the WCC has played 16 league games, which means BYU has five spots to fill.

However, sources close to the WCC tell me the conference is voting soon to return to an 18-game league schedule. With most Power Conferences adding more league games, it’s getting harder for WCC schools to schedule additional quality games. Going back to 18 games would mean all teams play each other twice.

If that happens, BYU will have three games left to add. In this scenario, I think BYU would add one more quality game and two more purchase games to be played on Provo.

What’s your take on the RM newbies? Can any of them make an impact this year? (Because they’ll have to…)

Three returned missionaries return for the 2022-2023 season – Richie Saunders, Dallin Hall and Tanner Toolson. Saunders has already returned from his mission in Madagascar and Washington, and Hall and Toolson will be heading home soon. All three players are guards, which is one reason Rudi Williams will likely be the only guard transfer added by BYU. Spencer Johnson and Trevin Knell will have big minutes, but the 3 RMs and Trey Stewart will be asked to take on a bigger role next season.

Honestly, I like this strategy. You needed a point guard to be a steady hand. Rudi Williams is that. But, I like the idea of ​​giving youngsters more rush to the Big 12 and not just adding a band-aid solution on guard through the transfer portal. Coaches are really on the rise at Dallin Hall, and I think he’s going to make the biggest impact right away. It could be the backup point and get significant minutes. Richie Saunders is also someone I think will break the rotation. He’s a light shooter and will be able to do three days one. Toolson might have a tough job breaking the first year of rotation with all the guards, but I like his scoring ability.

Will BYU Basketball have a team next year? Why does Pope focus so much on the transfer portal at the expense of the team?

I understand why BYU fans are anxious – we’ve ended up with a few guys and haven’t filled in any holes yet. And I don’t want to yell at Garth, but come on, man! What did Mark Pope do to the detriment of the team? To be honest, Caleb Lohner is the only transfer the coaches wanted to keep. All others were mutually beneficial to part ways. And Lohner absolutely has a high ceiling (there’s a reason Baylor hired him), but wouldn’t Aiken be an upgrade based on what we’ve seen of them in their college careers?

And if we look at what Pope has done on the portal, he’s only added two transfers in each of the last two seasons – that doesn’t seem extreme! Alex Barcello, Brandon Averettte, Matt Haarms and Jake Toolson were All-Conference players. Te’Jon Lucas was a solid starting point guard. Lowell and Harvard both had injuries, and Seneca didn’t work out as you’d hoped. But overall, this looks pretty good!

Papa is not perfect. In hindsight, I wish he had done more to keep Connor Harding and not essentially trade him for Seneca Knight. Hunter Erickson hasn’t developed as we expected, and we’ll see what he does at his next school. But Fouss and Atiki developed a ton in their freshman year, Alex Barcello went from being the hottest pitcher in college basketball last year, he got Collin Chandler when everyone thought he was going to Utah, and he got Matt Haarms over John. Calipari. He hired a lot of freshmen, but BYU has these things called missions! He’s getting three guys he hired back this mission season. BYU had to fill in gaps in the transfer portal. And it’s 2022 – if you’re not at the portal to some degree, you’re late.

Pope still has things to prove and we’ll see how he fares once BYU is in the Big 12, but he got BYU back on track after they lost the NCAA Tournament the last four seasons under Dave Rose.

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