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BYU Men’s Basketball Wings of Experience

The Brigham Young University men’s basketball team will enter the 2023-24 season with a wealth of experience. The Cougars have four seniors and 10 juniors on the roster, including 6-foot-11 Ali Khalifa (Charlotte) and 6-foot-4 Dawson Baker (UC Irvine), both listed as juniors on the transfer portal.

The Cougars’ 16-man roster has played in a total of 728 collegiate games, making 360 starts. A quick glance at Big 12 opponents reveals that many teams have lost a great deal of talent and experience to graduation, the NBA or transfers.

If Brigham Young University wants to succeed in one of the best college basketball conferences in the country, the magic and experience of the seniors must be a major factor. Experienced players have “been there, done that.” They know how to deal with and overcome adversity. They know their strengths and weaknesses, put their own agenda aside and believe they will never be out of the game.

BYU Men’s Basketball Wings of Experience

Earlier this week, assistant coach Nick Robinson answered questions when the media was allowed to interview the team.

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“On paper,” Robinson said, “the Big 12 looks great again.” For us to be able to get 10 practices in before we go overseas (this summer) and most of our players are a year older, it’s really exciting for us because we went through a lot in fall practice. We’re turning data into systems and processes. We feel like we’re going to have good non-conference experience both in and out of the game and be ready for the Big 12.

These extra practices and games in Europe add to our experience, which includes nine players returning from last season, led by junior forward Forseni Traore, senior guard Spencer Johnson, sophomore guard Darrin Hall, senior guard Jackson Robinson and senior forward Noah Waterman of a solid core. Senior forward Atiki Ally Atiki, junior defenseman Trey Stewart and sophomore defenseman Richie Sanders. Ninth on the list is Marauders junior guard Trevin Knell, who was sidelined with shoulder surgery last year but has appeared in 81 games in a Cougar uniform.

“We really liked the competitive spirit the guys showed in the first four or five practices,” Robinson said.” We really feel like the guys are doing their best to keep the tempo we want on offense to be able to shoot 3-pointers at a pretty high level. Defensively, we’re still defining our goals from a disruptive standpoint and an identity standpoint. But we want to do everything we can to protect everyone and protect the entire team at a high level.”

One of the big names on the roster is 6-foot-8 freshman Marcus Adams Jr. The four-star, top-50 talent who played for Kansas and Gonzaga slipped through the transfer portal again this summer. He hasn’t practiced with the Cougars yet (he was held back for precautionary reasons), and he’s applying for waivers to play immediately. Robinson said the waiver request is being processed and it will be up to the NCAA to decide when and if it is granted.

“He (Adams) is fantastic,” Hall said.” He’s young, much younger than the rest of us. Shout out to him, he came in at a young age and is just coming into his role. He’s settling in and he’s trying to be a sponge and soak up everything. He’s got a lot of energy. He loves to laugh and have fun and we love having him around. He’s a great addition and we’re excited to see what he can bring to the table.

Expectations were low for Brigham Young University’s first season in the Big 12, but that hasn’t deterred Hall and his teammates.

“There was a lot of noise,” Hall said, “and we tried to limit it to a large extent, but obviously some of it affected us.” We love things like that. It only adds fuel to the fire. People ostracizing us? We wouldn’t have it any other way. We don’t care what people think we can do. We only care about what the guys in the locker room believe. We hold ourselves to a high standard and we believe we can do great things. Everything else is just clouds. We believe we can determine our own destiny.

Brigham Young University’s Midnight Madness is scheduled for Oct. 19 at the Marriott Center and the Blue-White Mixer is scheduled for Oct. 25. The Cougars will play an exhibition game against Pacific Life on Nov. 1 before opening the preseason against Houston Christian on Nov. 7 at the Marriott Center.

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