Growing up, BYU freshman Dallin Hall wasn’t necessarily a BYU fan. He cheered for the Duke Blue Devils. 

As far as in-state teams, he’d root for whichever program was doing best, whether that was Utah, BYU, Utah State or Weber State. 

“Overall, I felt like BYU with coach Pope and his staff would give me the best opportunity to accomplish my hopes and dreams. And the best opportunity to win. Which is really why I came here to play — to win.” — BYU guard Dallin Hall

When he was a sophomore at Fremont High, Mark Pope, who at the time was coaching at Utah Valley University, started recruiting him. 

Then Pope became the coach at BYU in 2019.

“He really wanted me to come to BYU,” Hall recalled. “Overall, I felt like BYU with coach Pope and his staff would give me the best opportunity to accomplish my hopes and dreams. And the best opportunity to win. Which is really why I came here to play — to win.” 

Hall was part of the sellout crowd that watched BYU upset No. 2 Gonzaga in 2020 on a recruiting visit. 

“It put a lot of pressure on me when I went into the team room after,” Hall said, laughing. “They were like, ‘Why aren’t you committing now?’ It was a great atmosphere.”

Last week, Hall helped the Cougars win a game, playing a key role in the Cougars’ victory over Missouri State. He knocked down the game-winning jumper with 1.4 seconds remaining in a 66-64 triumph at the Marriott Center. 

But the 6-foot-4, 200-pound guard from Plain City has even much bigger “hopes and dreams” he wants to achieve in the future at BYU. 

“I hope to help the team and the program do something that’s never been done before. We have a big opportunity going into the Big 12,” he said. “But my hopes and dreams are to help BYU go to the tournament and make a super deep run. That’s never been done before.

“Ultimately, my goal is to play in the NBA. I’ve had that dream since I was a little kid. I believe that coach Pope and the people here and the opportunities that are here will help me, if I work for it, to play professionally someday.”

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Certainly, Pope has high expectations for Hall and what he can become in the program. 

Early this season, in crucial moments down the stretch in games, Hall has been on the floor — like the Missouri State game — exemplifying the trust Pope has in him. 

“He’s got a God-given talent to lead and he’s grown it really, really well,” he said. “There are some things that Dallin does really, really well. He’s got special vision. He can really shoot the ball. What I’ve been most pleased with is that he’s holding his own defensively. As a guard coming off a mission, being a freshman, that’s super hard to do. … He’s a really skilled player that’s got a huge upside. We expect great things from him.”

Mission change of plans

After signing with BYU, Hall was set to serve a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Hall was called to serve in the Philippines but due to COVID-19, he was reassigned to Fresno, California. 

Not exactly the exotic experience he had been expecting. But Hall loved serving in the Fresno area.

“I wouldn’t have had it any other way because I had a phenomenal experience out there,” he said. “I grew closer to God and my faith grew a lot so I know that’s where I was supposed to be. I was blessed with a great mission president, companions and family. They helped me focus on it being the same work no matter where you serve.”

One of the many people he met in Fresno was longtime Fresno resident Steve Cleveland, who was BYU’s head coach from 1997-2005. Cleveland also served as a mission president in the Indiana Indianapolis Mission from 2013-16.

“I actually got to talk to him quite a bit on my mission. He was a really good mentor for me,” Hall said. “He gave me advice for missionary work and a little bit for basketball. It was cool to meet him and learn from him — both about on-court stuff and more off-the-court stuff and how to handle your life.”

BYU guard Dallin Hall sinks game-winning shot over Missouri State guard Bryan Trimble Jr. during a men’s basketball game at the Marriott Center in Provo on Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2022. | Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

During his mission, it was announced that BYU would be joining the Big 12 in 2023.

What was Hall’s reaction? 

“Just pure excitement. A lot of people on my mission asked about it. As a competitor, you want to play against the best,” he said. “To have that opportunity to do that every night is truly special. It gives us a unique opportunity that BYU’s never had before and to have an impact like we’ve never had before.”

Transitioning after missionary service

As Hall admits, “it’s not easy coming back from a mission” in terms of taking off two years from competitive basketball. 

“I usually got to play every other day for 30 minutes in the morning with some missionaries. On (preparation) days, we’d play for a while,” Hall said. “Missionary basketball is a different brand of basketball. But it helped me keep my shot locked in. Now I’m just trying to get my legs back.”

The hardest part about the transition back to basketball is more mental than physical. At first, it was the physical side. 

“You run two plays up and down and you’re exhausted,” he said. “My body’s getting really close to being back. Now, it’s definitely the mental side. Just getting back in the flow of things, playing free, playing like myself, with confidence. That’s definitely the challenge ahead for me.”

Hall added that serving a mission, particularly during the pandemic, has helped him on the court. 

“We learned a lot about how to do missionary work in different ways,” he said. “Ultimately, my mission really helped prepare me for college basketball because it taught me a lot of skills and discipline. That was a huge contributor to my growth this summer.”

Hall expressed appreciation for BYU trainer Rob Ramos and strength and conditioning coach Erick Schork in helping him. 

“They’ve been harping on us returned missionaries to take care of our bodies,” he said. “You can push super hard but it doesn’t do any good if you can’t play.”

Of course, Hall isn’t the only recently returned missionary on the roster, as Richie Saunders, Tanner Toolson and walk-on Tanner Hayhurst are also going through a similar experience as Hall. 

Right now, Hall, Toolson and Hayhurst are roommates. 

“We’re all returned missionaries,” Hall said. “It’s been cool because we’ve had the same journey trying to get our legs back and get our feel for the game back. It’s cool because we’ve done it together. It’s given us a lot of unity.

“It’s special to come home with other returned missionaries that are going through the same thing as me so we can push each other and it helps to know you’re not alone going through this experience of coming home from a mission. They’ve helped me get better all summer.”

Making an impact as a freshman — and beyond

Senior guard Rudi Williams has been impressed by the improvement he’s seen in Hall. 

Williams said Hall is “making the right play with the ball in his hands. Dallin was already a smart player coming in. Each game, he kind of grows and gets better in that department. He doesn’t really turn the ball over that much and he’s usually making the right play. He’s playing strong and tough.”

Hall fits in well with BYU’s new, up-tempo style. How does he see his role this season? 

“My role is going to be very different depending on what the situation is. As far as my mindset, I’m going to go out there and do my best to do whatever coach asks of me — whether that’s to take care of the ball or lock a guy down or rebound.

“Something that’s come easy to me is making my teammates better. Seeing things before they happen,” Hall added. “Coach Pope talks a lot about my feel for the game, making reads. That’s always come easy to me, especially off the pick and roll. I’d say that’s my biggest strength — my court vision, my ability to make my teammates better. My role is going to be making my team better … whatever coach needs me to do. That’s what I’m here for.”

Pope has said multiple times over the last few months how excited he is to see the young players on the roster, like Hall, grow together as the program prepares for the Big 12. 

Hall is looking forward to that, too. 

“It’s super exciting. We definitely have a young, talented group,” he said. “We’ve just got to take it day by day. We definitely have a good, young corps. It will be exciting to see what we can do in the future.”

BYU guard Dallin Hall and Missouri State’s Chance Moore react to a call during game at the Marriott Center in Provo on Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2022. BYU won 66-64. | Kristin Murphy, Deseret News