Will they stay or will they go? Mark Pope in the process of re-recruiting his three seniors
Because the NCAA is pressing pause on eligibility for players this season, BYU’s three seniors — Alex Barcello, Matt Haarms and Brandon Averette — could theoretically return for one more season in 2021-22. But will they?
Ever the relentless recruiter, Mark Pope is doing some recruiting right now — in his own locker room.
Actually, he’s re-recruiting his seniors.
Because the NCAA is pressing pause on eligibility for players this season, BYU’s three seniors — Alex Barcello, Brandon Averette and Matt Haarms — could theoretically return for one more season in 2021-22.
Haarms, who was recently named the West Coast Conference Defensive Player of the Year, has stated multiple times this season that this will be his final year of college basketball.
After Senior Night last Saturday at the Marriott Center, Pope staged an impromptu postgame celebration. He took a microphone.
“The time will come, when it’s appropriate, to recruit them for one more year,” Pope said.
Then he allowed the trio of seniors to address the crowd of less than 2,000 allowed to attend the game.
It wasn’t Pope’s first re-recruiting pitch to the seniors.
“This definitely was not the first time he’s mentioned it. But that was the first time he went public in front of the whole Cougar Nation. I love coach Pope,” Averette said. “You’d rather have people to want you to come back than to want you to leave. I love them wanting me to come back. I’ll make that decision once the season’s over. We’re focused in on making a run in the postseason and taking care of our business right now.”
Barcello said Pope’s words made him think again about his decision.
“I trust him with everything that’s inside of me. I trust that man. He’s such a phenomenal coach and such a phenomenal man off the court,” he said. “He’s really a role model to me. Yeah, it definitely made me pause. But my main focus — and he knows this — is that we’re trying to make a name for ourselves in this postseason.
“Whenever the season ends, I’m going to look at my options and make the best decision for me. Right now, I’m just focused on winning more games. Winning the next game.”
No doubt, Pope loves his seniors, who helped lead the Cougars to a 19-5 record and to the cusp of an NCAA Tournament berth.
“I do have such a deep affection for these three seniors,” he said. “I don’t know if we’ve had three seniors before that are exactly like this that came from different schools and all guys that never imagined that they would be at BYU ever in their lives. They’ve come and given their heart and their soul and their sweat and their blood to the school and have accomplished so much.”
Haarms, a grad transfer from Purdue, is grateful to have played with Barcello and Averette.
“It’s been awesome. They’re such awesome dudes,” Haarms said. “They’re my roommates. They’re guys that are so committed to this team.”
For Barcello, it’s been a pleasure playing alongside Haarms and Averette.
“I don’t think there’s a rim-protector like Matt Haarms in the entire country. I don’t think there’s a guard as quick as (Averette) in the entire country. They’re so good at what they do,” he said. “BA can create, he’s a playmaker, he can shoot the ball at a high clip, he can get in the lane and finish. Matt is a phenomenal post player. He’s great at mid-range.
“Our entire team knows he can shoot the ball really well and he’s shown that this season. On the defensive end, he’s a presence. I’m so thankful that they chose to come here and that I was able to play with them for one year.”
Could Barcello and/or Averette return for another season? If Pope gets his way, that guardline combo could be back in a BYU uniform next fall.