PROVO — One conspicuous aspect of the new BYU basketball coaching staff is that three of them — head coach Mark Pope and assistants Chris Burgess and Nick Robinson — were highly touted high school prospects who were recruited to BYU as players but chose to play elsewhere.
Now, they’re tasked with the responsibility of recruiting players to the Cougar basketball program.
Pope announced Wednesday the addition of Cody Fueger, Burgess and Robinson to his staff and Thursday, he introduced them to the media.
Pope, who was hired on April 10, played at Washington and Kentucky; Burgess played at Duke and Utah; and Robinson played at Stanford.
All three are looking forward to selling BYU basketball to potential recruits.
“We’re going to recruit some of the best players and we’re going to go hard after them. We’re going to try to find guys that want to be here and want to be part of this program and the history and want to play in front of 20,000 people,” Burgess said. “We’re going to get those guys. Whether I played at this university or (somewhere else), it doesn’t matter to me. What I can do is sell our story and all of us can sell our stories. We’re going to find the kids that want to be here.”
While BYU missed out on Burgess’ services as a player, he jumped at the chance to come to BYU as a coach.
“I think I recruited (Pope) more to try to join his staff,” Burgess said. “I love this university … BYU has been a part of my family for a long time. My sister played here, my dad went to school here, my two brothers both played here. I know how important this university is, to this state and the Church … that’s why I was drawn to it. I wanted to continue this history and do something special.”
Robinson was recruited by BYU’s then-new staff in 1997 that featured Steve Cleveland and Dave Rose. Ultimately, he decided to attend Stanford. Before playing for the Cardinal, Robinson served a mission to Brazil. At Stanford, he helped the Cardinal compile a 92-34 record and earn four NCAA Tournament berths. He was a team captain during his junior and senior seasons.
“I couldn’t be more excited about the opportunity to represent BYU, its mission, the athletic department and the basketball program,” said Robinson, the former head coach at Southern Utah. “Everything to me is brand-new. Obviously, I’ve been familiar with the staff and the program for years. But I’m asking a lot of questions, which has been a great thing.”
Both Fueger and Burgess, who spent the past four years at Utah Valley University under Pope, interviewed for the UVU head coaching job that was filled by former Los Angeles Lakers assistant Mark Madsen.
It’s been reported this week that former UVU guard Jake Toolson, the reigning WAC Player of the Year, will join the Cougars next season while UVU forward Wyatt Lowell, the WAC Freshman of the Year, will also be transferring to BYU.
Fueger said Thursday he can’t comment on those reports.
During their time together at UVU, Pope, Fueger and Burgess established a strong reputation in the realm of player development.
“That’s what we do. We’re relentless at making sure that these guys can be the best they can be at the end of the day in every facet, whether it’s off the court or on the court,” Fueger said. “That’s what we love doing. We love building relationships with these guys. That’s what our goal is every single day.”
Pope is glad to have his assistants in place because the Annex has been “so lonely for the last 10 days,” he said. “I think we’ve put together a staff that will do BYU men’s basketball extraordinarily proud. I have guys that are incredibly devoted to pursuing greatness here that are fully capable as coaches both in the film room and on the court and in relationships with these players.”
On Thursday, Fueger and Burgess staged a shooting contest, with the winner receiving the only office at the BYU Basketball Annex that has a window. Robinson hadn’t arrived in town yet, so he missed out on the contest. Burgess won, though Fueger said they will have a rematch in a few months.
“Hopefully, I’ll be in the building,” Robinson joked.