BYU MenÕs basketball vs. Nevada 11

Brigham Young University guard Alex Barcello (4) celebrates along with his teammates as a timeout is taken 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

Every spring, as many as 800 men’s college basketball players are looking for a change in scenery.

The number grows every year as athletes look for better opportunities. If the NCAA approves its “one time transfer without penalty” rule this spring as expected, recruiting in the transfer portal will get even crazier.

BYU coach Mark Pope is beginning his second season in Provo and has been very active in the transfer portal. The Cougars have been mentioned by a half-dozen high-profile transfers and last week Pope pulled in one of the top grad transfers in the country in former Purdue big man Matt Haarms.

In the past week, BYU has been in contact with — among others — Franco Miller (Ole Miss), Jose Perez (Gardner Webb), Anthony Nelson (Seton Hall), Jeremiah Francis (North Carolina) and Javon Freeman-Liberty (Valparaiso), all guards in the transfer portal.

“We reach out to everyone in the portal that has a chance to be a fit for us,” Pope said. “We talked about this a year ago. Part of our job at BYU is to cast a really, really broad net. You just don’t know who is going to fit here. We have a uniquely beautiful product to offer but a lot of it is about fit. You can’t judge that looking at stats or size or reputation, so we have to dig in with everybody.”

Last year, BYU secured a commitment from Arizona transfer Alex Barcello, who became immediately eligible when his hardship waiver was granted by the NCAA. Barcello was a four-star recruit who also had offers from Virginia, Butler, Indiana and Stanford out of Corona Del Sol High School in Arizona. Last season, Barcello started all 32 games for the Cougars, averaging 9.3 points per game and shot 49% from the 3-point line.

After deciding to leave Purdue, Haarms’ top ten included Kentucky, Gonzaga and Arizona but he ultimately chose BYU.

“We think we are doing the right thing if we’re recruiting against good teams,” Pope said. “It means we’re hanging out in the right part of the portal. Matt’s list of his Top 10 was a who’s who of college basketball. We had to really work hard to let Matt know who we were. If we can find the right guy, we have a chance.”

Pope said he and his staff are not done quite yet. When a program is replacing seven seniors, it becomes imperative to keep filling the ranks and they intend to continue to cull the transfer portal for players who fit the program.

“We’re probably still interested in another player, a backcourt, veteran athlete,” Pope said. “We’re always thinking about adding quality shooting, depth and heart. We lose Alex Barcello next year and there’s not a player on the roster who would naturally slide to the point. We have some guys who are some interesting candidates, though. The point guard position is so incredibly important to me. Unless you’re gifted a talented player like T.J. Haws like I was, it’s really hard to bring a new person into the program and give them the keys. Maybe we can get someone who could sit out a year and then take over for Alex.”

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