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After an offseason of changes, what stands out about the new BYU basketball roster?

With all the roster changes during this offseason, the coaching staff has emphasized, among other things, bringing in shooters.

SHARE After an offseason of changes, what stands out about the new BYU basketball roster?

Brigham Young Cougars head coach Mark Pope reacts to a play during an NIT game against Long Beach State at the Marriott Center in Provo on Wednesday, March 16, 2022.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

In coach Mark Pope’s first season at the helm, in 2019-2020, BYU led the country in 3-point shooting at 42.2%.

At that time, the Cougars had sharpshooters like Jake Toolson, Alex Barcello, TJ Haws, Yoeli Childs, Connor Harding and Zac Seljaas.

The past couple of seasons since, BYU hasn’t been nearly as effective from 3-point range, Barcello’s stellar shooting performance notwithstanding. The Cougars shot 35.3% from deep in 2021-22.

With all the roster changes during this offseason, the coaching staff has emphasized, among other things, bringing in shooters. 

“Coach Pope loves guys that can put it in the basket from behind the arc,” said assistant coach Nick Robinson. “As we were evaluating guys this offseason, this spring, yes, we wanted to improve our 3-point shooting. We brought in some guys that have pretty good experience in that area.”

BYU has put the finishing touches on its 2022-23 roster after losing guards Barcello, Te’Jon Lucas and center Richard Harward to graduation, and Caleb Lohner (Baylor), Seneca Knight (Illinois State), Hunter Erickson (Salt Lake Community College), Gavin Baxter (Utah) and Nate Hansen to the transfer portal.

That’s a lot of production and experience.

Pope and his staff have brought in an intriguing blend of transfers with guard Rudi Williams (Coastal Carolina), who is entering his final year of eligibility; guard Jaxson Robinson (Arkansas); and forward Noah Waterman (Detroit Mercy). Meanwhile three returned missionaries who signed a couple of years ago have joined the program — guards Dallin Hall, Richie Saunders and Tanner Toolson. And there’s one freshman newcomer, forward Braeden Moore

“With Noah Waterman, Jaxson Robinson and Rudi Williams joining us, we’re excited about the roster moving forward. We’ve got a lot of work to do this summer. But we are looking forward to having those guys on board, transferring from a different school,” Robinson said. “We’ve got the returned missionaries as well that have all gotten back in the past month-and-a-half or two.”

And there are the returning players — Gideon George, who briefly spent time in the transfer portal and worked out for NBA teams before coming back to school; Spencer Johnson; Trevin Knell; Trey Stewart; and big men Fousseyni Traore and Atiki Ally Atiki, who were thrown into the fire as true freshmen last season. 

Those six returnees will play a key role during the roster’s transitional period. 

“They’re incredibly important. They’ve been in the program for one or two years. They have an incredible understanding of what it means to be part of BYU basketball and what coach Pope expects every single day from our guys,” Robinson said. “We’ve been able to see this summer and this spring, the guys that are returning really stepped into new and different roles, which is exciting for all of us to see their growth. With so many newcomers, for them to be able to help them understand what it’s going to take to play and compete at the highest level into work day in and day out at the highest level is really exciting to see.”

How does Robinson evaluate the roster overall going into next season, BYU’s last as members of the West Coast Conference before joining the Big 12 in 2023-24

“Overall, we feel like we’ve got some great length. We’ve got incredible skill. We like the shooting ability of the guys that are on the roster at this point,” he said. “The roster looks a little bit different than maybe in years past. But we are looking forward to the guys that we’ve got in the mix. We’re looking forward to working with them and helping them get better every day this summer.”

It certainly has been a busy offseason for BYU — and for many programs around the country — due in large part to the transfer portal. In addition, the Cougars saw assistant coach Chris Burgess leave to take a job at his alma mater, Utah, while Kahil Fennell replaced him. 

To what does Robinson attribute all the changes? 

“Right now, in college basketball, change happens. We’re seeing USC and UCLA moving to the Big Ten. In the world of college athletics, with name, image and likeness, as it’s currently structured, and the transfer portal, student-athletes are provided a lot of opportunities in a lot of different ways,” he said. “For us, there was a lot of change with BYU basketball this offseason. But we had changes the previous summer and the previous summer before that as well. We adapt and continue to move forward. We’re excited about the guys that want to be here at BYU, playing for coach Pope and working to get better every day and striving to be the best we can be in the WCC as well as in the country.”

Robinson offered a brief scouting report on the transfers joining the program this season.

On Williams, who averaged 14.7 points, 3.7 assists and 4.2 rebounds at Coastal Carolina, where he shot 51% from the field and 45% from 3-point territory: “Rudi Williams has played in the Big 12. He had an incredible season at Coastal Carolina. He shot the ball extremely well and helped them get to the postseason. As an elite guard, he wants that role and is excited for that opportunity.”

On Waterman, who played in 36 games and averaged 9.6 points during his career at Detroit Mercy, where he shot 48.6% from the floor and 44% from 3-point range; during his first season at Detroit Mercy, he shot 52.8% from 3-point territory: “Noah Waterman started at Niagara and he’s been at Detroit Mercy. He brings 6-10/6-11 length and great shooting ability, good skill. We’re excited to see where he grows defensively and rebounding-wise. He played for a good, quality team.”

On Robinson, a 6-foot-6 guard who played at Texas A&M and Arkansas the past two seasons; in 16 games last season with the Razorbacks, he averaged 3.4 points and 10.2 minutes per game and shot 32.6% from 3: “Jaxson Robinson has been part of two top-25 programs. He’s a great shooter and he adds versatility, mobility and length. We’re excited about the skill set he brings.”

As for the freshmen, Robinson is optimistic about their shooting ability, including the 6-8 Moore, who shot 41% from 3 in high school. 

All the incoming freshman “can really shoot the basketball,” Robinson said.

“We’re excited about the energy they’ll bring into the program,” he added. “We’re excited to see their progress through the summer.” 

The BYU roster has added some shooters. How good will the Cougars be next season shooting the 3? That remains to be seen.

The coaching staff is working to mold a team that can contend for an NCAA Tournament appearance.

“A lot of new faces, a lot of newcomers. Different levels of experience when it comes to college basketball,” Robinson said. “I’m excited to see where everybody grows this summer and how coach Pope decides to utilize everybody by the end of the season.”