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Is Alex Barcello ‘the best shooter in the country’?

ESPN analyst Jay Bilas said as much during “College GameDay” on Saturday. And Barcello’s coach says ‘just look at the numbers’

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BYU’s Alex Barcello shoots between pair of Creighton players during game in Sioux Falls, S.D., Dec. 11, 2021.

BYU’s Alex Barcello shoots between a pair of Creighton defenders during a game at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls, S.D., on Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021.

Matt Gade, for the Deseret News

On ESPN’s “College GameDay” basketball show last Saturday morning, analyst Jay Bilas singled out BYU guard Alex Barcello and threw some significant praise his way.

During a segment discussing the best shooters in the country, Bilas said, “Alex Barcello is the best shooter in the country. He’s the best shooter.” 

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What did Cougar coach Mark Pope think of Bilas’ compliment? 

“I mean, he’s just stating facts. We’ve banged out the numbers a billion times. The stats that declare conclusively that Alex Barcello is the best shooter in the country, they’re everywhere,” he said Tuesday. “There’s only one player in the country over the last three years that has shot over 45% from the 3-point line. There might not even be a shot minimum to that. So you could go down the list. I was glad that Jay said it because the world should know. Just watch what he did … the shots he’s making are so difficult right now. He’s done it with such consistency for three straight years.”

Pope said some players gain more notoriety as shooters because they make buzzer-beaters or memorable shots. But they can’t match Barcello’s consistency, especially under duress, he added. 

“Just look at the numbers. Alex Barcello is double-teamed every single second of every single game. Everybody’s sending two defenders, everybody’s denying him the ball,” Pope said. “Nobody is giving him an easy shot. He does get catch-and-shoots sometimes, from 30 feet. Right? What he’s done, the numbers speak for themselves. I think it’s really hard to debate it, to be honest with you. I was really happy about that.”

This season, Barcello is shooting 47.6% from 3-point range (49 of 103). He’s also averaging 46.8% overall from the field (102 of 218) and 88.2% from the free-throw line (67 of 76). 

For his career, the senior from Chandler, Arizona, is shooting 48% from 3-point territory (155 of 323).

Before the season began, guard Te’Jon Lucas was talking about Barcello’s shooting ability. So what did he think of Bilas’ praise of Barcello? 

“I thought it was a little late. I mean, I could have told you that at the beginning of the season. But it’s good to finally let Alex get some of that recognition,” Lucas said. “He’s the best shooter in the country. He’s shooting 48% the last three years. It’s remarkable. I have all the confidence in Alex. I really don’t think he’s going to miss any shots, especially if he’s open. I just get back. Sometimes I run down the court with my hands up because I already know it’s going in.”

The Cougars were already well aware of how good a shooter Barcello is.

“Our whole team knew it,” Lucas said. “It was just a matter of time before the world would find out.”

So what was Barcello’s reaction to what Bilas said? 

“That’s one of the special things about Alex,” Pope said. “How often to you get a guy on a team that believes that the only thing that he cares about for his individual success that this team wins. He believes that his legacy is this team winning. He believes that his future is this team winning. I’m sure it’s nice to hear nice things about yourself but what he cares most about is this team winning. It just is.”

Pope added an anecdote from last Saturday’s 71-69 win at San Francisco

“Alex carries such a load for us. I’m trying to buy him a 35-second or a one-minute or 90-second break here and there in the San Francisco game. You saw it, how hard he’s working,” he said. “He’s getting the living daylights beat out of him every time he touches the ball, and a lot of times when he doesn’t have the ball. He’s exhausted. He’s like, ‘Coach, I’m good. I’ve got to be in this game. We have to win this game.’ That’s just where he is. For him, it is winning is what matters.”