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How a visit from Mark Pope helped Brandon Averette know he was the coach for him

BYU’s latest commitment will be tasked to help fill the void left by TJ Haws

Oklahoma State guard Brandon Averette (0) passes in front of Texas Tech guard Keenan Evans (12) in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Stillwater, Okla., Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2018.
AP

PROVO — Around the time a lot of us vertically-challenged individuals were merely dreaming of it, Brandon Averette was making it happen.

All 5-foot-8 of him, mind you, as a ninth-grader.

That was when BYU’s latest graduate transfer rose above the rim to dunk a basketball, showing off his athleticism at a young age. He parlayed that athleticism into earning a scholarship to play basketball at Oklahoma State, before transferring to Utah Valley and then up the road to BYU for his final year of eligibility.

“I’ve been blessed to always be the fastest and most athletic on whatever team I was on, since I was young,” Averette said. “I’ve always had it, and decided to put it all into basketball and it’s worked out well.”

Averette now stands at 5-11, and displayed his elite athleticism throughout his one year with the Wolverines, averaging 12.8 points and three assists per game. He transferred to UVU from Oklahoma State for the opportunity to play for coach Mark Pope, who was then the Wolverines coach, along with the chance to play alongside good friend and high school teammate Ben Nakwaasah.

Hailing from the greater Dallas area, and then Oklahoma State, Averette was completely unfamiliar with Utah County’s unique culture, but quickly felt comfortable at the prospect of playing for Pope.

“When coach Pope visited with me, and my family, it really won me over,” Averette said. “It was something I’d never experienced before from a coach and I could really tell he cared for me both as a person and a player.”

Averette had to sit out his first year at UVU due to NCAA transfer rules but still made a strong impression on his teammates, including Jake Toolson, who was the Wolverines’ leading scorer that year. Toolson, who transferred to BYU immediately after his junior year, recently shared his impressions on the Oklahoma State transfer on Twitter, saying “BA was the best player on our UVU team 2 years ago during his redshirt - and it wasn’t even close. So excited to watch him ball out.”

“It really felt great to read that and I honestly didn’t know he felt that way,” Averette said. “I mean, I don’t know about all that, and I think he was probably just trying to help me out, a bit, but yeah, it was great to have a player like Jake come out and say that. I really appreciated it.”

Shortly following the 2018-19 season, Pope moved on to BYU, along with most of UVU’s staff, which was understandably hard for Averette, who was entering his junior year at the time.

Oklahoma State’s Brandon Averette advances the ball during an NCAA college basketball game in Stillwater, Okla., Saturday, March. 3, 2018.
AP

“I wasn’t mad at him, or anything like that. I mean, I understood why he did it and it was pretty obvious right after BYU’s coach retired that coach Pope was likely moving on,” Averette said. “It’s just one of those things, but now I have the opportunity to play for him again, which is a true blessing.”

As he weighed his options, there really wasn’t much of a question that BYU was Averette’s top choice.

“I just had to figure out graduating and making sure everything else was in place to get to BYU, but no, there really wasn’t another option I was considering,” Averette said. “Coach Pope wanted it. I wanted it, so it’s just a blessing it worked out the way it did and I couldn’t be more excited to play my final year at BYU.”

What Averette brings to BYU is an experienced and athletic player to help fill the void of TJ Haws’ graduation. Averette presents a quick and athletic presence to the backcourt, along with a strong defensive mindset that should benefit the team immediately.

“I’m a guy who knows how to create and I love playing fast — that’s my strength,” Averette said. “I’m just a competitor and I like to say I can do a bit of everything, which includes a focus on defense. It’s something I’ve focused on my entire career — just being a strong defender and I pride myself on my defense.”

As far as what Averette wants to accomplish during his one year at BYU, the goal is fairly direct.

“It’s really all about making the NCAA Tournament for me,” he said. “I got to go there my first year at Oklahoma State, and I want to go out the way I came in. It’s not easy making the tournament, and there’s a lot of work to be done, but I know we can get there and make a good run. That’s really my entire focus right now.”