Mark Pope has never won a game at BYU without guard Alex Barcello in the lineup.
Barcello, a two-year starter and the team’s leading scorer last season, will make sure that string continues for at least another year. The 6-foot-2 senior, granted an additional year from the NCAA due to the pandemic, has decided to return to Provo for the 2021-22 season.
Barcello made the announcement on Friday at the start of the Fathers and Sons Basketball Camp. Pope called down all the young campers to surround Barcello on the Smith Fieldhouse floor and had them chant, “One more year! One more year!” A grinning Barcello took the microphone from Pope and made it official.
“I couldn’t be happier right now,” Barcello said. “I’m sweating, I’m crying, I’m excited and I’m cheering. I’m so emotional because this is the happiest time of life right now and I couldn’t be more excited.”
That excitement isn’t just basketball related: Barcello recently became engaged to his long-time girlfriend, Zoe Simpson, who just graduated from the University of Arizona.
“It’s a surreal feeling,” Barcello said. “I just got engaged and that’s surreal. It was like a movie the night that it happened and now for me to come back is the cherry on top. They are two great things, the best things that have happened in my life. I’m so excited and so happy. To come back and play for BYU, such a great university, I couldn’t ask for much more.”
Pope said he knows how important it is that Barcello is returning for next season.
“Only three other teams have All-Americans coming back to their program,” Pope said. “What he does in the locker room, his leadership skills are so incredible. What he’s saying to his team is how much cares about them. What he’s saying to himself is how much he believes he can keep getting better and really make a push at his dream, which is to be NBA basketball player. I’ve never won a game coaching at BYU without Alex Barcello and I would like to not have to try for another year so I’m super excited about that.”
Barcello said he made his decision a few weeks ago before heading to Arizona for Simpson’s graduation and to ask her father’s permission to get engaged. Barcello told the coaching staff he wanted to keep it low key.
Pope had other plans.
“Pope with his incredible mind he thinks of this great idea. You know Pope, he’s go big or go home. He said, ‘What if we do it at Fathers and Sons Camp? There will be no masks and everyone will be COVID free. We can do it there.’ I just though that was a perfect time to do it. I love the fans here so much and I’ve got so much love for this university. I couldn’t pass up on another year.”
Barcello said he talked to agents and NBA representatives, who advised him that since the pandemic had created a non-traditional draft process, there wouldn’t be many opportunities for him to be seen.
Barcello was one of the leading 3-point shooters in his first year at BYU, making 48% of his shots beyond the arc as a complimentary piece to a very experienced team. As a senior, Barcello stepped forward as the team’s leading scorer (16.1 points per game) and leading the Cougars to an at-large NCAA Tournament berth.
He plans on using that first round loss to UCLA as a motivator next season.
“I don’t want to live with any regrets,” Barcello said. “I’m the kind of guy who wants to leave it all on the table. I want to give my whole heart to this university, this coaching staff and my new beautiful fiancee. I want to give her everything she could ever imagine.”