New BYU basketball coach Kevin Young had a simple message for Dallin Hall when Young got the job and went about persuading the junior point guard to get out of the transfer portal and return to BYU.

“He told me he could grow my game and make those dreams of being a pro a reality,” Hall said.

That’s simplifying things a bit, and there were certainly other factors such as name, image and likeness, or NIL, agreements, Hall acknowledged last week as the Cougars began summer workouts. But when push came to shove, it really came down to the former Fremont High star’s NBA dreams, and he believes the former NBA assistant coach is the right man to get him there.

When he publicly announced that he was ready to “run it back” on Instagram and then wrote “unfinished business” as a caption, Hall made a lot of people happy, he said, including his parents and family members.

His new haircut — a close-cropped look — didn’t get similar reviews.

“Mama Hall (Nicole) was not a fan,” he joked. “So it might not stay. We will see.”

That Hall is staying is another big win for Young, who has had plenty of victories away from the court in his first two months in Provo. Junior forward Richie Saunders is also returning after a brief stint in the transfer portal.

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“I never talked to them together. It was always separate. So the one commonality between the two of them was, ‘How can I help get them better?’” Young said on June 6. “The (coaching) staff we put together has an extremely strong player-development background. They have soaked it up, so far, a couple days into it. So that’s been the theme — trying to get them back. That’s what they have sunk their teeth into here early.”

A day after Mark Pope accepted the head job at Kentucky to replace Arkansas-bound John Calipari, Hall jumped into the transfer portal, a move that stunned a lot of BYU fans who believed he was a BYU lifer if there ever was one. A few days later, KSL Sports reported that he was considering Clemson, Creighton, Cincinnati, Florida, Washington, Utah and Utah State.

Some were surprised that Kentucky wasn’t among Hall’s early suitors, but many close to the player and the BYU program were not.

“It was a super hard decision, but me and my family felt it would be best to jump into the portal to kind of weigh out options for my basketball future,” Hall said.

Having averaged 9.0 points, 5.1 assists and 3.5 rebounds for the Cougars last season, Hall said he focused on schools in which he believed he could win NCAA Tournament games, but just as importantly improve as a player through skill development and coaching.

He said there was a “good amount” of interest in him when his name hit the portal, estimating that 15 or so schools “reached out pretty quickly.”

It is one of the reasons BYU — which usually takes its sweet time selecting head coaches — moved quickly as well, sources told the Deseret News. Hall said that he heard from Young the same day the former Phoenix Suns and Philadelphia 76ers assistant got the BYU job.

“It is a little different in the portal than with high school (recruiting) because it is like teams want you right now and so everything happens a lot faster,” Hall said. “But I am super grateful for my time there in the portal, because I learned a lot of things about myself, my game, and I think it will help me going forward.”

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Interestingly, Hall said he was contacted by several schools he has competed against the past two seasons while at BYU, and “they told me a lot of the things I needed to get better at, things they thought I would need to work on and improve.”

Hall said he was a “sponge,” in the portal, taking in all the counsel and advice he could to make the right decision.

An honorable mention all-Big 12 pick in 2023-24, Hall said Young made an immediate impression. He had known about the fellow member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by reading about Young in various coaching search articles, but had never met him. He acknowledged that his heart was always with BYU.

“For me, obviously BYU has been an incredible home,” Hall said. “I have been treated with a bunch of love, and respect, and I have loved my time here. … Coach Young came in, and we had a lot of great conversations, just how he saw me fitting into his style of play.

“So that combination, as well as the relationship we built over that time, is ultimately what helped me feel really good about coming back here and accomplishing all my goals on and off the court,” he concluded.

After the first week of workouts, Young said it was “comforting” to have Hall and Saunders back in the fold, as their leadership and institutional knowledge was invaluable.

Big man Fouss Traore, graduate Trevin Knell, backup point guard Trey Stewart, walk-ons Townsend Triple and Jared McGregor and redshirt junior Dawson Baker are also back. Incoming freshmen Elijah Crawford and Brody Kozlowski, Rutgers transfer Mawot Mag and Utah transfer Keba Keita are also on the recently released roster, which a BYU spokesperson said is not complete.

BYU guard Dallin Hall dribbles against Duquesne guard Jake DiMichele in the first round of the 2024 NCAA Tournament at the CHI Health Center in Omaha on Thursday, March 21, 2024. Hall briefly entered the transfer portal, but opted to return to Provo. | Megan Nielsen, Deseret News
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Young has said he plans to fill the remaining two scholarship openings before preseason training camp begins in September. As far as his pitch to Hall, Saunders and others about making the program a place where guys can develop their NBA dreams, he explained it thusly last week:

“When I say that, I mean it is a very holistic approach to a program. Right? It is not one specific thing,” Young said. “I have been trying to explain that to Dallin, and Richie, and Keba when we were recruiting him. … I think it is an overarching mindset of how we are organizing the program.”

Hall has certainly bought in.

“It is going to be a process, but I think we are bringing in a lot of amazing pieces,” Hall said. “We have an incredible staff already, and we kept a good core (of players). So I think that is going to allow us to be successful down the road.”

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