Just as a successful football season hinges on BYU’s quarterback, winning in basketball points to the point guard and the Cougars are watching Dallin Hall transform into a pretty good one.
The sophomore hails from Plain City, Utah, but there is nothing plain to his game. At 6-feet-4 and a solid 196 pounds, Hall is equally as happy draining a 3-pointer as he is darting inside for a dunk. Defensively, his fearlessness may get him into foul trouble on occasion, but he backs down to no one.
A trio of BYU’s pioneers at the point guard position have taken notice.
“These Big 12 guards are big and physical and it’s not like teams have just one of them either. The guy coming off the bench is the same. I’ve been super impressed with his toughness,” said TJ Haws, a two-time first-team All-WCC point guard from 2016-20. “He’s hard nosed and he doesn’t shy away from that physicality. He is a guy that says, ‘We are here to fight. I don’t care who we are playing or who is in front of me, I’m here to fight!’ As a teammate, it’s easy to get behind a guy like that.”
Hall has some Nate Call in him too. At 5-feet-11, Call used his tenacious defense to win over the trust of the team.
“As a young point guard, you have to earn some clout. For me, I had to guard people. I knew I had to be the hardest-working guy and I knew I had to play defense for my teammates to respect me,” said Call, a member of the 1992 All-WAC Defensive Team. “I wasn’t like 6-10 Michael Smith, and I didn’t have a shot like Jeff Chatman. I had to earn it in other ways. Some call it ‘dirty work’ and I had fun doing it. I can see that (Hall) does that. He gets in front of them and lets them know it’s going to be hard for them to get to the basket.”
Freshman to sophomore
Last year, as a freshman fresh off a two-year Latter-day Saints mission to Fresno, California, Hall played in 34 games, including 17 starts. His performance statistics earned him a place on the WCC All-Freshman Team and gave him the reins to run the Cougars into the future.
At first glance, Hall’s numbers thus far this season aren’t much different from last year when it comes to points and shooting percentages. However, a closer look at his craft reveals a promising trend that is tied to the DNA of every successful point guard — Hall is dishing out more assists and turning the ball over less.
During his debut season, Hall finished with 108 assists and 56 turnovers. This season, he is up to 109 assists with 39 turnovers. In Big 12 competition, Hall has been even better. In the last four games alone, he has combined for 26 assists and three turnovers.
“You can tell from the beginning of the season to now that his pace has changed,” said Jimmer Fredette, BYU’s 2011 National Player of the Year. “A lot of times in the beginning you are sped up and trying to go a little too fast. Recently he has slowed the game down and made the right decision on most of his plays.”
In last Saturday’s 86-73 win at West Virginia, Hall dished out a career-high 12 assists with just one turnover in the raucous environment of Morgantown. On Tuesday at Oklahoma, he had five assists and no turnovers.
Not every night is golden, and the 16-6 Cougars aren’t winning every game, but they are winning enough to keep the NCAA Tournament in their sights.
“He’s been doing a better job at getting the ball to the right people at the right time,” said Fredette, who has tutored Hall at times during the season. “His pick and roll decision-making has been better over the last few games, which is going to be huge as they go down the stretch.”
A tough job
For Hall or anyone else, playing the point is like playing all the instruments in an orchestra.
“You have to know everybody’s position, how it works and what it does,” said Call. “It’s not just talent and knowledge of the game and understanding the aspects of it, it’s also playing your position, being the motivator, being the heartbeat of the team and getting the other guys to play with you.”
As the position relates to football, Hall is like Patrick Mahomes or Brock Purdy, only he will try to lead the Cougars to a win Saturday against Kansas State in Provo (8 p.m., ESPN2). Mahomes and Purdy won’t duke it out until Sunday at the Super Bowl in Las Vegas.
“Playing point guard is hard, but I really enjoyed it,” said Haws. “You are trying to make sure you are finding guys in spots that they like and making sure everybody stays together. It’s a fun spot, but it’s a challenge for sure.”
It’s a challenge Hall is figuring it out on the fly. Some days are diamonds, and some days are rocks, but his glimpses of greatness are becoming more frequent.
During a sequence at West Virginia that began with a blocked shot by Noah Waterman, Hall grabbed the ball and raced the length of the floor. As the West Virginia defenders moved over to stop him, he delivered a bounce pass to Fousseyni Traore for a dunk.
Tuesday at Oklahoma, Hall dished out five assists, including one to Traore for a layup to give BYU its final lead of the night, 44-43 with 14:31 to play. A second half of cold shooting did the Cougars in. Hall made just 5 of 14 shots and finished with 17 points in the loss.
The point guard’s next challenge will be to shake off the defeat and rally the roster for a Saturday night clash at the Marriott Center against Kansas State (8 p.m., ESPN2). The Wildcats upset No. 4 Kansas at home on Monday.
No one likes to be told what to do, but free advice from an expert can be like manna from heaven. The residue from the point guard careers of Fredette, Haws and Call can still be found all over the BYU record books.
Fredette remains No. 2 in scoring (2,599), No. 2 in free throws made (627), No. 4 in games played (139), No. 5 in steals (167) and No. 6 in assists (515). To no surprise, he would like to see Hall light up the scoreboard.
“He needs to be a better and more efficient scorer, especially in the mid-range,” Fredette said. “At the end of games, scoring the ball is the most important thing and he needs to get good shots. For him to get into the paint, hold the defender on his hip and have the ability to make a shot in that area is huge.”
Haws is No. 2 all-time in assists at BYU (601), No. 3 in minutes played (4,328), No. 7 in scoring (1,899), No. 8 in steals (158), and tied for ninth in games played (133).
“When (Hall) is on and he’s leading the charge, he’s really good,” Haws said. “I would like to see more consistency from him in that area. He can get in the paint, he can find open shooters, he can score, and when he’s consistent with all that it makes us so much more difficult to defend.”
Even after 32 years since he played the point at BYU, Call remains No. 5 in assists (528), No. 6 in assists per game (4.1) and tied for 10th in steals (138). He believes Hall’s ticket to ride is in his shot.
“I needed guys to guard me, and I needed to get into the paint to distribute the ball and I couldn’t get in there unless I was a good shooter,” Call said. “You want to get the ball to your best players in the best spots. To do that, you have to be more of a threat offensively. It’s an adjustment. It was in between my sophomore and junior years where I made the most improvement.”
A bright future
There are still 10 games, a Big 12 Tournament and an NCAA Tournament before Hall needs to start thinking about his junior season. But his predecessors already are. With the Cougars returning nearly the entire roster, and the addition of highly touted Colin Chandler who will be back from his mission, a point guard with two years of experience is pure gold.
“I can’t even express how important that is, especially in today’s college basketball landscape where there are so many teams who have brand new rosters every year,” said Haws. “Moving forward, the best teams are going to be the ones who have been together the longest. To have a point guard who has played as many games as Dallin, and with the pieces coming in, it’s important, and it’s going to show and that’s going to be really big for BYU.”
Sometimes, Big 12 basketball looks more like a football game, and that suits Hall just fine. While never playing a down at quarterback during his years at Fremont High, the 2020 Deseret News Mr. Basketball winner assumes that critical role every time he and his Cougars take the floor.
BYU’s future is growing brighter because Dallin Hall gets the point.