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Freshman Fousseyni Traore shines bright in BYU’s Blue-White basketball scrimmage

Traore hit his first six shots from the field and he finished with a game-high 20 points — on 8 of 10 shooting from the floor, including 2 of 2 from 3-point range — 11 rebounds, three assists and seven fouls in 30 minutes of action

BYU freshman Fousseyni Traore (45) is introduced during BYU’s Blue-White basketball scrimmage.
BYU freshman Fousseyni Traore (45) is introduced during BYU’s Blue-White basketball scrimmage at the Marriott Center in Provo on Friday, Oct. 29, 2021.
BYU Photo

BYU basketball found out Friday night what life would be like without senior guard Alex Barcello during the Blue-White scrimmage at the Marriott Center.

Barcello didn’t play because of a minor injury suffered in practice this week.

“He’s day-to-day right now. He’s got a little whiplash on the neck,” said assistant coach Cody Fueger, one of the coaches of the White team. “He took a hard fall in practice. He’ll be back really soon.”

Meanwhile, the Cougars also saw what life could be like with freshman forward Fousseyni Traore.

The 6-foot-6, 254-pounder from the West African country of Mali came off the bench and shined the brightest, albeit for the losing White team.

Traore hit his first six shots from the field, and he finished with a game-high 20 points — on 8 of 10 shooting from the floor, including 2 of 2 from 3-point range — 11 rebounds, three assists and seven fouls in 30 minutes of action. Yes, he was whistled for seven fouls but continued playing. Hey, it was a scrimmage.

His performance may have surprised spectators, including the 4,200 fans that were in attendance. But it didn’t surprise his teammates and coaches.

“Fouss’ production is always good at practice — rebounding, setting screens, scoring. He does a little bit of everything,” said guard Te’Jon Lucas, who recorded 15 points, five assists and five rebounds for the Blue squad. “I was happy to see him shooting 3s. We want to do that more. He’s proven today that he can do it. I wanted him to be comfortable doing it every day. I’m proud of him.”

White team coach Chris Burgess liked what he saw from Traore.

“Fouss is a special player. Even when we recruited him to the first time we got our hands on him, he’s got a great feel,” he said. “Having his dad as a basketball coach, he has a great feel for the game. He’s played at one of the best high schools in the country the last four years. And he’s been well-coached. What he did tonight, he stuffed the stat sheet. But what he’s done since he got here in the summer, he’s been doing a lot of stuff — rebounding the ball, beautiful touch around the rim, protecting the rim. He’s a rim-protector. And he doesn’t do anything out of character. Him knocking down two 3s, that was a little surprising.”

“That was a lot surprising to the Blue team,” interjected Blue coach Nick Robinson.

“Other than that, what he did out there, he’s been doing that,” Burgess said of Traore. “He’s comfortable out there. He does a great job. That was fun to watch. Hopefully, he can build off of that. He wants to do everything he can so that he can play and we can’t take him out. That creates a lot of competition and energy in practice. It’s great.”

How did Traore assess his own performance?

“I didn’t do anything special. I just played my game,” he said. “I just did whatever the coaches wanted me to do.”

Other top performers included Seneca Knight (14 points), Gideon George (14 points), Spencer Johnson (11 points), Atiki Ally Atiki (11 points) and Trevin Knell (10 points).

Caleb Lohner hit only 2 of 9 shots from the floor, but he pulled down nine rebounds. George also added six boards.

The coaching staff tried dividing up the teams as evenly as possible. The scrimmage was close throughout.

Lucas said it was strange not having Barcello, who helped coach the White team, on the court.

“Yeah, a little bit. After the shootaround today, we were not cool because he was on the White team,” Lucas joked. “I was not that excited to see him all day and I was talking trash to him the whole time.”

“We really missed him. If he was there on our team, we would have won,” Traore said of Barcello. “He’s a dominant player. In practice, he kills everyone. Nobody can stop him in practice.”

Lucas showed what he can do as a point guard.

“Te’Jon’s a great point guard. He’s been brought up at the point guard position,” Robinson said. “In practice, he’s been working at the off-guard spot, doing a really nice job next to Alex Barcello. We weren’t surprised by what he’s capable of at the point guard position.”

Gavin Baxter, who missed most of the past two seasons due to injuries, played limited minutes. He hit 3 of 5 shots from the floor, including a rim-rattling dunk and he had three assists and two steals.

“Today was a win for Gavin and his teammates for him to be out there on the court, running around again,” Burgess said.

The Cougars enjoyed playing in front of fans, something they didn’t get to do very often last season due to the pandemic.

“It was awesome. Just being able to play in front of people,” Lucas said. “Last year, I didn’t get a chance to play in front of anybody the whole year. The fans are awesome. We were trying to put on a show for them.”

“It was very good. It’s something special here,” Traore said. “I was very excited to see the fans. Seeing the fans, it was a different emotion.”

BYU hosts Colorado Christian next Thursday in an exhibition game. The Cougars officially tip off the season Nov. 9 at home against Cleveland State.

TIP-INS: Former BYU coaches Frank Arnold and Roger Reid were in attendance, as was Cougar legend Danny Ainge.