It isn’t often BYU signs a basketball player that rejects Kansas, shows up at Gonzaga, then decides to play for the Cougars, all in six months.

In fact, that’s never happened before.

Marcus Adams Jr., a prolific high school talent from Southern California, is now enrolled at BYU, waiting to see if he can play this year.

Adams is a versatile, mobile, athletic forward. He will easily be the best at that position for the Cougars since Mekeli Wesley in the Steve Cleveland era

On Wednesday, BYU assistant Cody Fueger told BYUtv “Sports Nation” his comparables with Adams are Carmelo Anthony and Paul Pierce. 

Adams has filed papers with the NCAA to obtain a waiver to be eligible to play this coming season. There is no word from those involved as of Thursday if his case will be approved, and if it is, what the timing may be.

Danny Ainge out of North Eugene High in Oregon was the most coveted recruit BYU ever signed before the star-ranking of recruits system cropped up in the ’90s.

With Adams being on Mark Pope’s team, it could be as impactful as Ainge was in the Frank Arnold era — if he sticks around long enough.

When Ainge came to Provo, he was considered one of the top dozen players in the country.  He was a 1977 Parade All-American with Earvin “Magic” Johnson and Utah’s Danny Vranes.  Ainge is often called the only three-sport high school All-American (basketball, football, baseball).

Most recently, Pope signed four-star guard Collin Chandler from Farmington, Utah, who is expected to join the team after a church mission. Also part of that 2024 team will be another four-star, 6-foot-6 Idaho Falls forward Isaac Davis.

Adams? 

Well, when Kansas, UCLA and Syracuse were your top choices out of high school and you end up at BYU, it’s a big deal.

“He’s got a little Carmelo in him,” said Fueger, who praised him for his ballhandling skills and shooting. “Melo in his younger days,” is how Fueger put it.

“Someone called me and said he reminded him of Paul Pierce,” said the coach.

A 6-8 wing who can play forward or guard, Adams is from Torrance, California, where he averaged 28.8 points, 6.8 rebounds and five assists per game in his final season at Nathaniel Narbonne High. He was named the John R. Wooden High School Player of the Year for the L.A. City Section Open Division after posting three 40-point performances, including a 50-point, 21-rebound game.

Last month BYU lost point guard recruit Ques Glover, who was set to transfer from Samford after he signed with Florida out of a Tennessee high school. Glover left Provo before school started and enrolled at Kansas State. The word is that Glover was told one thing about NIL at BYU (not from coaches) and it turned out to not be what he expected.

Name, image and likeness opportunities is a big factor and perhaps the first factor when recruiting kids these days, but it was not the main factor for Adams, according to Fueger, who was on Adams as soon as he decided not to enroll at Kansas.

“The players and the staff were the most important factors for Marcus in his decision to come to BYU,” said Fueger. “I talked to his mother (who was on the official campus visit with her son), and she said Marcus had never spent so much time with players as he had at BYU — and he loved it.”

It is still up in the air if Adams will be given a waiver to play basketball at BYU this fall. But his signing with the Cougars created a news cycle of its own.

Related
BYU’s Mark Pope anxiously awaits huge challenge to face Big 12 basketball giants
BYU basketball and the Big 12: Tough sledding awaits Cougars, but how tough?

Adams had pledged to play for legendary Kansas coach Bill Self this past March. But after spending some time in Lawrence, he felt uncomfortable with the surroundings and team chemistry and decided to give Gonzaga a try after he entered the transfer portal.

Once at Gonzaga, Adams decided he would not become a Zag and contacted BYU’s staff inquiring about making a visit.

BYU’s team and coaches had just returned from a European trip and games in Italy and Croatia when they got word of Adams’ interest.

BYU’s staff asked Adams to submit a transcript and application immediately — even if he had not decided to come — and arranged for a campus visit. BYU got those papers filed and turned them around in days.

Adams apparently loved his visit to Provo, fell in love with the players, campus, atmosphere, and as Fueger explained it, Pope and Adams really hit it off.

In this piece by KSL, Adams explains his decision to come to BYU.

Adams credited Fueger and Pope for putting in big-time effort, talking to him and his family every day. “It’s just been a couple of weeks. They were a big part of this and I think them a lot. I’m really grateful for them and they are the ones that made it happen,” Adams told KSL.

He also said he was blown away by the atmosphere and reception he had with future teammates at BYU.

Why leave Kansas — one of the nation’s top basketball programs?

Shreyas Ladha of the Kansas City Star got an answer from Adams during the summer on why he left the Big 12 powerhouse school abruptly after practicing with the team in Lawrence.

“I felt like KU wasn’t the right place for me. I see everybody in the comments and some reporters saying it was about playing time … it’s not,” Adams said. “I felt like I would have been good there if I’d stayed, but I had a gut and heart feeling. I felt like it wasn’t the place for me.

“It’s not (about) playing time. I could have got a good amount of play time and done well my first year at KU. It was just more than that. It was the area, the city, the team, the bond and the chemistry. It wasn’t really there. It wasn’t really aligned for me.

“The fans and all that showed me a lot of support during my time there, but I couldn’t see myself at Kansas for years,” Adams said. “There are no hard feelings. I just couldn’t see myself there.”

Adams told the Star the feeling around the team didn’t seem right in practice.

“I felt like it was a bit odd with the team. I (didn’t) feel like it was the right fit, so I left when I had some time.”

Apparently, whatever sauce BYU offered fit his taste.

His social media accounts blew up when he announced he would sign at BYU, according to Fueger. “He has something like 87,000 followers on Instagram and that’s more than our BYU basketball Instagram account has at 53,000.”

The Cougars have had some great shooting forwards throughout history, including Wesley, Lee Cummard, Devin Durrant, Michael Smith, and Hall of Famer Kresimir Cosic — who could play all five positions.

Related
Why BYU basketball players can’t wait to compete in ‘a beast of a league’ that is the Big 12
This BYU transfer is reportedly headed to China and Jimmer Fredette’s former team

If one believes the hype, Adams could potentially be one of the best.

When he sniffed around Gonzaga, he was exactly the kind of player Mark Few has built his powerhouse program around — the type of player Few tends to pick up from other programs.

If he had stayed at Gonzaga, he would have had to apply for a waiver to be eligible to play in Spokane. Now that challenge shifts to BYU.

This past summer, Andy Patton, host of the “Locked on Zags” podcast, praised the skill and ability of Adams.

“Gonzaga has landed probably the most highly coveted type of player that you can add in today’s era of college basketball,” Patton said. “That is a player who has four years of eligibility and who is basically unable to transfer again.”

Adams reclassified himself as a high school Class of 2023 instead of 2024, which triggered his early admission to college.

According to 247Sports, “As a new member of the 2023 recruiting class, Adams ranks as the No. 8 small forward in the nation and the No. 11 recruit in the state of California. With a 94 rating, the four-star forward is the 48th-highest-rated player overall in the cycle.”

“Adams showed that his ability on the offensive end was no fluke,” 247Sports national basketball director Eric Bossi wrote upon Adams’ original commitment.

 “247Sports was able to evaluate him in person during the season and we came away impressed with his overall size, his ability to play multiple frontline spots, and long-term upside. To be clear, it is the upside that stands out,” wrote Bossi.

“While Adams posted monster numbers during the high school season — he even had a 50-point, 20-rebound game — he wasn’t always playing against the highest level of competition that Southern California has to offer. He’s also not yet played a ton of high-level competition during grassroots ball in the spring and summer.

“At the end of the day, though, talent is talent and there is no doubt that Adams is talented. He plays with confidence, has a big personality and is also obsessed with proving that he’s not only deserving of the lofty ranking he earned during the season, but worthy of an even higher ranking.”

Brigham Young’s head coach Mark Pope celebrates the win with students as BYU defeats Utah.
BYU coach Mark Pope celebrates a win over Utah with students at the Marriott Center in Provo on Saturday, Dec. 17, 2022. BYU won 75-66. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News