PROVO — The BYU men's basketball roster for the upcoming season is still in flux, although the meat of what's returning looks relatively promising.
On paper, the roster appears pretty set, though BYU coach Mark Pope mentioned during a rare early June press conference that some more personnel changes could very well be forthcoming between now and the season's opening tip.
“We’re pretty close. We still have some guys we’re actively recruiting, even for (this season) in different ways,” Pope said. “... I think this is sort of a new era that’s going on every summer and I think these rosters will be dynamic probably through August, in all honesty. So I think we’re pretty close.”
Pope has already made several notable additions to his roster, the most notable being the addition of Jake Toolson, who will be joining the team this season. Toolson played for BYU for two seasons before transferring to Utah Valley, and will now return to Provo as a graduate transfer.
His return has been viewed as a big boost to outsiders and, according to Pope, a welcome addition for all inside as well, to the point where he could very well be regarded as more than just a hired gun.
“It’s easier for him now to jump in and take a leadership role. He’s now accustomed to that,” Pope said. “The guys have been incredibly accepting, and I think that they’re grateful that he is here ... This team right now is grateful for players.”
Other additions from UVU include 6-foot-11 forward Richard Harward and 6-10 Wyatt Lowell, although both will sit out this coming year due to NCAA transfer rules.
“(Harward's) one of my favorite stories in college basketball right now,” Pope said. “And then get-go Wyatt Lowell, whose ceiling is so high, and then there’s a couple of other guys I’m really excited about who I think can help us in games, maybe this year.”
Pope can't discuss preferred walk-on additions to the roster until they're officially enrolled at BYU, although it's been reported two of those are former American Fork guard Trey Stewart and guard Blaze Nield. Stewart will serve a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints before enrolling, but Nield could help out immediately after playing for Utah State University Eastern last year.
As mentioned, those joining the program will find a lot of uncommon experience to team up with while working to achieve new heights within the program. BYU's impressive list of seniors includes Yoeli Childs, guards TJ Haws, Nick Emery, Toolson and Zac Seljaas, along with forward Dalton Nixon.
Pope has spent a lot of time meeting with his returning players, working to build trust, while finding the ones who drove him crazy coaching against, who have become some of his fast favorites.
“It’s most often the case that the guys you hate most to play against ... those are the guys you actually love the most, and I think that’s been pretty consistent for me,” Pope said. “It started when we had our first series of individual meetings. We sit and have a half an hour to an hour meeting ... so we had a lot of those moments then ... It’s really fun to get to know these guys.”
Through all the meetings and other activities, Pope feels he's found a common and encouraging denominator among all of them.
“This team wants to win, so I think top to bottom guys feel like (they want to) have as many guys here to help us win,” Pope said. “Interestingly, there’s not that many rosters that are in that place — in that mindset. Most of the time it’s kind of competitive posturing ... I think this roster is uniquely situated.”