PROVO — BYU Basketball assistant coach Cody Fueger was necessarily blunt when asked about NIL and the gravity of the still relatively new allowance that has shaken up the college athletic world considerably.
“Right now I would say that it’s the most important thing,” Fueger said. “Three years ago we talked about how we’d love for it to be a part of (college basketball.) I just wish there were more regulation to help it move forward because right now it’s just kind of the wild, wild west.”
Fueger said as much in an interview conducted by Ben Criddle and Brian Logan during Tuesday’s show, alluding to a window of opportunity that may or may not be shut in the coming years. Sure, regulations may come, but as for right now, there’s little to nothing preventing collectives from promising, and in sometimes actually delivering monetary advantages to certain athletes.
As Fueger mentioned, NIL has risen to become perhaps the biggest factor in attracting prime talent to the Cougar basketball program.
“It’s one of the top three things we talk about with each recruit,” Fueger said. “They’re asking what’s the NIL like and what did guys get last year, and all that stuff. It’s everything to these guys and I don’t blame them, at all.”
Fueger sees BYU’s NIL opportunity as exactly that, mentioning a loose goal of a $2.5 million dollar pool of NIL money to bring the top talent to Provo necessary to compete within the Big12 Conference.
“We have to be up there if we want to be the best,” Fueger said. “BYU could be one of the most prominent teams in the country right now with the right NIL…Money changes a lot of things.”
Fueger spoke enthusiastically about the current crop of transfers BYU has brought aboard for the 2023 season when the Cougars will embark on Big12 Conference play.
“I’m really excited about this roster. We have a great group of kids coming in here,” Fueger said. “We wanted to get older — that was one of the most important things was to get older and to shoot the basketball. And we feel that we brought in three guys who are older and have gone through it that will help us take a step (forward.)”
Indeed BYU lured in two juniors-to-be and one senior in hopes of fielding an older, more mature roster, beginning with forward Aly Khalifa. Khalifa presents a long and versatile 6-foot-11 frame that starred for Charlotte before entering the transfer portal there.
“He is a monster,” Fueger said of Khalifa. “He can really shoot the ball at a high level, and he can pass, and he really knows how to play. He has some similarities to (Nikola) Jokic. He’s a high-level player.”
Wait, that Nikola Jokic? The one who just pulled down NBA Finals MVP honors after leading the Denver Nuggets to the Championship? Yup, that one.
The comparisons surround Khalifa’s versatility and his ability to facilitate on the perimeter as well as post up players on the low block. Yes, comparing the native Egyptian to arguably the best big-man in the NBA is extreme, but it’s hard not to notice the similarities, according to Fueger.
“His passing is just something that we’ve never had,” Fueger said. “Yoeli could pass here and there, but this is a 6-foot-11 guy making the same sort of passes. And then he can go down on the block and make those plays, and it’s just going to open up our offense to where our guards get to the rim a little bit more. It’s just going to give us more space that we’re hoping to play with in the Big12.”
As with Jokic, getting into prime physical condition will be key to Khalifa’s success at BYU, which Fueger states, “He knows it’s the most important thing.”
The other junior transfer is former UC Irvine Anteater Dawson Baker, who averaged 15.3 points per game last season. The 6-foot-4 combo guard is expected to contribute right away and add much-needed depth to the Cougar backcourt along with perimeter shooting prowess.
“He’s an unbelievable kid and he fits right in there,” Fueger said. “He was the leading scorer at UC Irvine and he just really knows how to play, and he lives in the gym. Every time I call him he’s on the court or in the weight room. He’s all about getting better, so we’re really excited about him.”
The lone senior transfer is Ques Glover, who averaged 19.2 points per game two seasons ago for Samford before having his 2022-2023 season cut short due to injury. Still, the 6-foot Knoxville, Tennessee native averaged 14.7 points in the 19 games he played.
“This kid can get to any spot he wants on the floor,” Fueger said. “He makes plays for his teammates and he’s an incredible kid. I Have a great relationship with him already…he can really defend and we’re really excited about him.”
BYU is not finished, however, with Fueger mentioning a likely fourth roster addition as the Cougars prepare for their first season within the Big12 Conference.