Mark Pope graduated seven seniors from his 2019-20 BYU men’s basketball team and a busy offseason was expected as he and his coaches retool the roster.
Sophomore guard Blaze Nield decided he didn’t want to wait around to see what was going to happen and put his name into the transfer portal on March 18.
On Thursday, Nield decided to take his skills just a few miles down the road to Utah Valley University to play for Mark Madsen.
Comfort level was a big factor for Nield. He grew up in Lehi and played pickup ball and in tournaments at UVU. He knows Wolverine assistant Todd Phillips, who was formerly at Salt Lake Community College. One of his former AAU teammates, Asa McCord, will join him at UVU after playing last season at SLCC. In addition, former Cougar teammate Colby Leifson will also join the Wolverine program.
“I talked to Coach Madsen just after he got the job at UVU last year,” Nield said. “I was pretty far along in my commitment to BYU then. I really like the style of play at UVU. There’s a lot of freedom and they run a lot of pick and roll, which really goes with my game. I feel like they play in a great conference where we can go and make some noise. I also feel like there are great kids on the team.”
Nield was honorable mention All-State at Lehi High School his senior year, averaging 17.3 points per game in 2015. After serving a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to Washington, D.C., Nield played his freshman season at Utah State-Eastern, where he averaged 20.6 points, 5.2 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game.
Nield found playing time hard to come by on a senior-laden BYU roster in 2019-20. He played just 59 minutes in 17 games for the Cougars, scoring 12 points and adding eight assists.
“I loved my time at BYU,” Nield said. “When I began to evaluate things and realized the season didn’t go as I planned, I decided to test my options. In my exit interview, Coach Pope and I talked about it. He was super supportive. He said he didn’t want me to go and there was a spot for me on the roster, but he wanted me to be happy and do whatever was best for me.”
The recruiting process with COVID-19 restrictions was interesting since there are no home or face-to-face visits. All of the recruiting has been done online or by phone. Nield said as soon as he put his name into the transfer portal he started receiving phone calls. Idaho State offered him almost immediately. He said he wanted to narrow the process down to a few schools as soon as possible and didn’t take long to land on UVU.
Nield said he’s been doing what he can to stay in shape.
“I’ve been shooting at a church and lifting some,” he said. “I have a friend where we go online and go through ball-handling drills. We also do some plyometrics and some cardio, just anything we can do.”
Since he was a preferred walk-on at BYU, Nield might have an option of an NCAA waiver to play immediately for the Wolverines. The NCAA is also considering a rule change to allow a single transfer without penalty.
“I’m excited for what the future holds,” Nield said. “I plan on playing next year. I know what I’m capable of. It should be fun.”