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Cougars sign Wasatch Academy star from Mali

By Darnell Dickson daily Herald - | Nov 19, 2020
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Fousseyni Traore, BYU Basketball
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Brigham Young University head coach Mark Pope watches as a play unfolds during a game between the BYU Cougars and the Nevada Wolf Pack on Tuesday, Dec.10, 2019, at the Marriott Center in Provo. Isaac Hale, Daily Herald

BYU men’s basketball coach Mark Pope and his staff are spanning the globe when it comes to recruiting.

On Thursday, the Cougars announced the signing of Fousseyni Traore, a 6-foot-7, 235-pound forward originally from Mali in West Africa, for 2021.

Last season, Traore averaged 9.2 points and 5.6 rebounds for Wasatch Academy. The private school in Mount Pleasant plays an independent schedule against some of the top teams in the country. One of Traore’s teammates, Caleb Lohner, is a freshman on the BYU roster this winter. Another former Tiger, Richie Saunders, signed with the Cougars last season before leaving on a church mission.

“Fousseyni Traore is one the kindest, most big hearted and faithful people you will ever meet,” BYU coach Mark Pope said. “He is a big bodied, barrel chested, incredibly explosive power forward, who proved this summer that he is also effective off the bounce and from behind the three-point line. We are so blessed as a team and a staff to welcome this great young man to our program. He is going to be an extraordinary representative of his family, his home country of Mali, the university and Cougar Nation.”

Traore, who has a 7-1 wingspan, played for the Utah Mountain Stars (Jimmer Elite) AAU team this summer. He also had interest from Seton Hall, Utah State and Dixie State. Traore was a member of the Mali National Team before coming to the United States two years ago.

“I can’t wait to play for Coach Pope,” Traore said. “Every time I speak with him he has so much energy and passion and makes me feel amazing as a player and a person. He really believes in me and I’m looking forward to playing for him at BYU.”

The Cougars have two international players on the 2020-21 roster: Purdue transfer Matt Haarms (Netherlands) and junior college transfer Gideon George (Nigeria).

Traore helped Wasatch Academy to a combined 53-6 record over two seasons and back-to-back invitations to the GEICO High School Basketball National Tournament. During the 2019-20 season, the Tigers wrapped up the regular season with a 27-2 record and a No. 2 national ranking in the Ball is Life FAB 50. Wasatch Academy’s potential run at a GEICO national title ended when the tournament organizers canceled the event due to the pandemic.

According to the Wasatch Academy website, Traore speaks three languages. His favorite movie is “Mission Impossible” and he has taken up ceramics and fishing.

“Working hard in all aspects of his game and playing with a high level of confidence, Fouss has made exceptional gains since last season,” said Tigers head coach Dave Evans. “In addition to finishing around the rim as well as any player we’ve ever had, he can also skillfully shoot the ball from the outside and protect the rim on defense.”

In West Coast Conference news, the league announced on Thursday 16 games which will be telecast on the ESPN family of networks. BYU contests at Pepperdine (Dec. 31), at Saint Mary’s (Jan. 14), at San Francisco (Jan. 16), home against Pepperdine (Jan. 23), at Gonzaga (Feb. 6), at home against Saint Mary’s (Feb. 11) and at home against Gonzaga (Feb. 27) will all be on ESPN, with times to be announced at a later date.

ESPN will also air two quarterfinal games, both semifinals and the final of the WCC Tournament from Las Vegas in March.


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