While his BYU basketball teammates paraded to the transfer portal following the departure of five-year head coach Mark Pope to Kentucky on April 12, super senior Trevin Knell adopted a “wait-and-see approach” for himself.

Knell, who started 28 games last season and averaged 10.6 points per game, listened intently to what deputy athletic director Brian Santiago and BYU president C. Shane Reese had to say about trusting them to move quickly and find the right guy to replace Pope. He fought off the temptation to jump into the portal and see what kind of interest — and NIL opportunities — he could command in the open market as a 38.5% 3-point shooter on a team that went 23-11 overall and placed fifth in the rugged Big 12.

“I just kinda waited it out,” Knell told the Deseret News. “I wanted to give BYU the benefit of the doubt and I really wanted to show that I am loyal and here for the fans, here for the school. I wanted to be that leader and say, ‘Hey, we don’t need to jump into the portal just yet.’ I told them I was confident we would be taken care of.”

Knell’s determination to stay the course paid off a few days later as BYU hired NBA assistant Kevin Young, a hiring that was applauded throughout Cougar Nation and around the college basketball world. Since then, Young has continued his impressive run by assembling an outstanding staff, reeling back key 2023-24 contributors Dallin Hall and Richie Saunders from the portal and bringing in six talented newcomers.

“It feels like a lifetime ago, because so much stuff has happened,” Knell said. “I am glad that it all worked out how it did because we have an amazing coach, coach Young, and we are super excited to play for him.”

Saunders returned to BYU on April 25, while Hall announced his return on April 26.

Since then center Aly Khalifa (Louisville), backup center Atiki Ally Atiki (New Mexico), power forward Noah Waterman (Louisville) and wing Jaxson Robinson (Kentucky) have found new homes, but Young has replaced them with the most impressive offseason haul in recent memory, maybe ever, at BYU.

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“Excitement is kinda the first word that jumps to mind,” Hall said in early June. “We get a whole offseason to figure things out. There is a little bit of uncertainty, I would say, just on how we all fit together. Still learning what coach Young likes, and doesn’t like. It is going to be a process, but I think we are bringing in a lot of amazing pieces.”

Those pieces include two future NBA draft prospects in Russian Egor Demin and ex-Purdue commit Kanon Catchings. Corner Canyon’s Brody Kozlowski and ex-Stanford commit Elijah Crawford are joining from the high school ranks, while transfers include Utah’s Keba Keita and Rutgers’ Mawot Mag.

The influx of talent has caused some to wonder how the returners such as Knell, Saunders, Hall, UC Irvine transfer Dawson Baker and Fousseyni Traore are accepting the newcomers and dealing with the reality that their roles could be changing and/or diminishing.

Are there enough minutes to go around? How will Young and his staff with mostly NBA ties keep everybody happy? Knell said through three weeks of practices that it hasn’t been an issue at all.

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“I mean, when you get to this level, you get to a point where you just want to win,” he said. “So the main thing we are talking about as a group and as a team is just that we gotta put our own agendas aside and go win. We want to go deep in the tournament, have an incredible year. … BYU fans are going to love it. Cougar Nation is going to be stoked to see coach Young do his thing and how we come together this year.”

Knell said practices have been intense, a bit physical, and filled with learning the new “lingo” that Young has brought from the NBA. As the Deseret News reported earlier this week, the 6-foot-9 Demin joined the team on Wednesday, arriving from Europe.

“I feel like nobody is really nervous right now (about roles and playing time),” he said. “We are all just trying to compete. The atmosphere we have is super unique. It is super competitive, because everybody wants to win and everybody wants to play super hard.

“We have a really cool dynamic and I don’t feel like anybody has a hidden agenda or anything like that,” Knell continued. “Everybody just wants to help everybody, and that is what makes a team a team, and it is going to be super fun.”

Hall said Young’s terminology “is a little bit like a foreign language. But we are just trying our best. He is not too concerned about us getting it down right now. He wants us to just learn the style of play and the terminology will come with it. But it is cool. He is coming from the NBA, a place where a lot of us want to end up. And so to learn that now, I think just gives us an advantage.”

How is Knell’s health after a rocky finish?

Knell’s production slipped a little the second half of the season, as he never fully recovered from a “weird foot sprain” he suffered on Jan. 13 at UCF. He was 4 of 10 from deep in the win over TCU on March 2, but was 4 of 16 from 3-point range in BYU’s final five games of the 2023-24 season, including an 0-for-4 outing in the Big 12 quarterfinals against Texas Tech and an 0-for-2 day in the NCAA Tournament loss to Duquesne.

“I am finally back to where I feel my shoulder is as strong as it was before I tore it,” he said. “So it feels really, really good and I am really excited to finish this last year out and play with a bunch of different dudes and for a coaching staff that is really hungry to hit the ground running and make a lot of noise here.”

Knell graduated more than a year ago and just completed his first year in the MBA program in the prestigious Marriott School of Business. This summer he is doing an internship with Pelion Venture Partners in Draper.

On the court, he’s focused on making his sixth and final season of college basketball a memorable one and one that could propel him to the professional ranks, in the NBA, G League or overseas.

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“The biggest thing that coaches are having me focus on is just my footwork, getting shots off, and finding windows to get shots off that I typically didn’t take last year, and just be more daring,” he said. “A lot of coaches talk about how I need to be an ‘arrogant’ shooter, which I respect a lot, because I put in the work, and they say, ‘Don’t let your previous shot effect how your emotions feel or how it goes.’”

Knell’s role moving forward

The aforementioned Demin and Catchings are bigger and more athletic than Knell, and both can play the shooting guard/wing positions. But they probably don’t shoot the 3-pointer as well as Knell. So it will be interesting to see how Young utilizes the senior, who originally signed with Cal out of high school.

“We are still very, very early in everything that coach Young is doing. We are trying to get the concepts down, we are mixing and matching teams a ton (in practices),” Knell said. “So I don’t think anybody is really set in stone in terms of what is going to happen. I feel like have a leadership role on this team to help the younger guys and just help them navigate what college is like, what the Big 12 really is, and how physical it is.”

An early scouting report on the new guys

Knell said BYU fans will find out soon enough that the newcomers “are the real deal” and as good as advertised.


“How can I not talk amazing about my teammates?” he asked, rhetorically. “Of course these guys are really, really good.”

He said they are just as exceptional away from the court, telling a story about how he and his wife, Tatum, were in a grocery store a few weeks ago when they ran into Crawford and Mawot.

BYU players participate in summer workouts at the Marriott Center Annex June 6, 2024, in Provo.
BYU players participate in summer workouts at the Marriott Center Annex June 6, 2024, in Provo. | Nate Edwards, BYU Photo

“They saw my wife and ran right up to her, shook her hand and introduced themselves really formally,” Knell said. “We have really high character guys that I know BYU fans will fall in love with. It is going to be super fun to compete on the court at such a high level, and as soon as you step over those lines and be able to be best friends and create relationships that last forever.”

And in some cases, withstand the lure of the transfer portal.

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