PROVO — Make no mistake about it, Richard Harward and Wyatt Lowell didn’t enjoy sitting on the bench in street clothes during BYU basketball games last season while they redshirted after transferring from Utah Valley University. 

They did try to make the most of their time and opportunities, though. Now, they’re eager to make a big impact for the Cougars on the floor. Both are currently participating in voluntary workouts on campus.

“It’s like anticipation building up over a year. It’s like, ‘Finally, it’s my turn to get on the court.’” — Richard Harward

“It’s like anticipation building up over a year,” Harward said. “It’s like, ‘Finally, it’s my turn to get on the court.’”

And they can’t wait to play with each other. 

However, in mid-July, Lowell suffered a torn labrum and underwent surgery — a left shoulder labral repair and it is expected to be a four-month recovery. It’s similar to the injury teammate Gavin Baxter sustained in last September, 2019. He returned in mid-February and played in BYU’s final seven games.

“I’m insanely excited to play with Richard. He killed it at UVU when he had his chance and I think he’ll do the same here,” Lowell, a 6-foot-10, 205-pound sophomore from Gilbert, Arizona, said before his injury. “He just does what he needs to to win. He plays so hard. He’s strong. When he gets in the post, you have to double-team him or else he’ll score it on you every time. He’ll be a big part of this team offensively and defensively and also as a leader. I’m excited for him. The fans will love him.” 

BYU’s Wyatt Lowell at BYU’s basketball practice facility in Provo on Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2019. | Steve Griffin, Deseret News

“Wyatt’s my man. We went through the whole redshirt season together. I’m so excited for him because he’s an amazing shooter. He’s one of the best shooters on the team,” said Harward, a 6-11, 265-pound junior from Orem. “I see so many advantages having a big lineup with me and him and me and (7-3) Matt Haarms at the same time. Wyatt can hit 3s like crazy and Matt is an excellent mid-range and 3-point shooter and he’s great around the rim. We have so many options when Wyatt is in the game.”

Both Lowell and Harward followed coach Mark Pope, who previously coached at UVU, to BYU in May, 2019. The pair redshirted last season due to NCAA transfer rules.

“I chose to go to Utah Valley because of coach Pope and the opportunities that I saw there. So when he left and he still recruited me to BYU, it was for the same reasons,” Lowell said. “I believed I could become a great player under coach Pope and that we could win big and do amazing things. BYU has a great resume and a great program.”

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Pope has high hopes for both Harward and Lowell.

“I expect them to have a big impact on this program. That’s why they came here. They’re both really, really capable guys. They have a special work ethic,” he said. “They’ve clearly already shown that they’re willing to try to lose themselves in a team and set aside some of their immediate interests because they know what it feels like to be part of something that’s really special that’s bigger than themselves. I expect them to be great leaders in that. They obviously have great length, physicality and skill. They know me really well. I expect big things from both of those guys.” 

In his first season at UVU, Lowell was named the 2018-19 Western Athletic Conference Freshman of the Year after averaging 5.4 points and 3.0 rebounds in league play. Pope has said that the versatile Lowell could play the two guard, a wing or a power forward.

Lowell was rated a four-star recruit by and a three-star prospect by both and out of Willams Field High School in Gilbert, Arizona. He finished up his prep career in 2016 after averaging 24.3 points, 10.4 rebounds, 2.3 assists, and 2 blocks per game as a senior. He knocked down 40% of his 3-point attempts (61 of 153).

Harward averaged 10.8 points and 7.1 rebounds and shot 67.9% from the floor during the final 18 games of the season in 2018-19 at UVU.

Both were playing well before their careers were interrupted by transferring to BYU. 

“Redshirting is kind of the worst, I’m not going to lie,” Harward said. “It kind of kills you on the inside when you’re practicing but you can’t be part of the games.”

Utah Valley’s Richard Harward drives to the basket against Seattle in a 2019 game. Harward redshirted last year after transferring to BYU. | Clark Clifford, UVU

But Harward and Lowell say being sidelined last year turned out to be a positive experience when it comes to developing their skills. For example, they were able to go against one of the program’s all-time best scorers and rebounders, Yoeli Childs, in practice.

“It was great because I had the opportunity to play against Yoeli Childs every single day. He really helped me develop my game because he’s a handful in the post and he’s a lot quicker than the guys I was used to,” Harward said. “Being able to play defense on somebody of his caliber every day for a year was huge for my own personal development. But it was also the ability to bond with the guys and build some chemistry for a year. That’s a good advantage.”

Lowell said the practices last season were competitive and he also improved while playing on the scout team. 

“The starters were amazing, along with the guys coming off the bench. The ‘Gold Squad,’ as we called it, with me and Richard, I definitely feel like I got a lot better,” he said. “One of the nice things was not having the stress of having to perform in games. So I was able to focus on going out and competing. I feel like I got a lot better because of that.”

Aside from practices, Lowell spent a lot of time in the weight room. 

“That was one of the biggest things I took away from the redshirt year — getting stronger, quicker and faster,” he said. “Sitting on the sidelines and not being able to play was terrible. But being able to watch the guys succeed as a team, I learned how important every player on that team was and without one of them, the team wouldn’t have been as successful. I learned how important it is to have that camaraderie. I’m excited to try to build that with this upcoming team.”

BYU Cougars guard Jahshire Hardnett (0) makes a pass as Utah Valley Wolverines forward Wyatt Lowell (25) and center Baylee Steele (44) guard him during a men’s basketball game at the Marriott Center in Provo on Friday, Nov. 9, 2018. Lowell redshirted last season after transferring to BYU. | Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

Though 6-10, Lowell possesses a lot of guard skills but he also knows how to use his size inside. He’s expected to create mismatches for opponents.

“One of my main strengths is shooting. I’m a very good 3-point shooter. On offense, I can be a mismatch. I’ve always been taught how to be a guard and be a big growing up,” he said. “I can play on the wing and handle the ball but I can also play in the post. It depends on the matchup and who’s guarding me and exploiting their weaknesses. On defense, I feel similar. This past year, I’ve gotten a lot better on defense — being able to guard guys that are quicker than me, using my length, but also being able to guard guys that are bigger and stronger than me. It’s trying to be a mismatch on both offense and defense.”

Junior forward Gavin Baxter is looking forward to playing with Harward and Lowell.

“Richard is a beast in the post. He’s going to grab every rebound and he’ll challenge guys every day. Wyatt is the same way,” Baxter said. “He’s really tough to guard. He’s really skilled offensively and he’s also a good defensive player with his size and length. They’re going to totally change the game for us.”

How do Lowell and Harward see their roles on this team? 

“I want to be one of the key players and a super important aspect to this team. I want to be one of the guys that everybody looks to to contribute on defense and offense,” Lowell said. “That’s a general way to put it. I learned from last year that if we’re winning, that’s what really matters. I’m willing to do whatever it takes to win.”

“I see myself as someone that pushes everyone to get better,” Harward said. “Where I can help the most is in the weight room and or in practices, helping guys understand that we had a great season last year but we have to work extra hard to be just as good this next season.”