Mark Pope, BYU Excited to Tip-Off 2020 Season

BYU basketball’s head coach Mark Pope told Ben Criddle on Tuesday that he has an “urgency” to let fans get to know the team in advance of an open practice that will air live on BYUtv Wednesday night.

With a lot of new faces on BYU’s roster, Pope said it is especially important to allow fans access to the team in order to let them develop relationships with players, and to allow the new players to get a feel for the fan base.

“I do like the feel for our guys, they’ve been working hard all summer,” Pope said. “Anything we can do to connect with fans. If we get a good response, we might run it back and do it again next week. With the exception of one or two guys who are dinged up, this team is ready to go. It’s going to be really competitive — these guys are hungry.”

Pope seemed excited about the new additions to the roster, including senior guard Brandon Averette who transferred after spending last season with Utah Valley University. Averette will be playing alongside senior Alex Barcello at the point guard position, which will allow the team to be flexible at that spot.

“Brandon Averette is a really special player,” Pope said. “He’s a veteran, he’s been everywhere and done everything. It’s been so incredibly satisfying to watch him and Alex Barcello forge a relationship together. They’re both natural point guards, but neither of them played the point last year. We will probably play two point guards this year with some really interesting lineups we can throw on the floor.”

Averette averaged 12.8 points and three assists per game last year with the Wolverines and was named to the WAC All-Newcomer team.

Pope also had high praise for Caleb Lohner, the freshman forward out of Wasatch Academy.

“Caleb Lohner has been really interesting, I think his prowess as a post defender is really special,” he said. “There’s a bit of a Draymond Green feel with him. Just making a post entry pass against him is difficult. It’s going to be an unbelievable story to watch unfold. He’s a rookie, and you know as well as I do that rookies don’t know anything, but he’s just got such a joyful spirit and a fearlessness about him. He doesn’t get down when he makes mistakes, and he’s got an unbelievable body and incredible athleticism.”

In addressing current injuries, Pope said sophomore forward Wyatt Lowell is still not cleared for contact but that he expects him to be able to return to the court soon. Sophomore Trevin Knell and junior Jesse Wade are both at “100%” in terms of health and are being brought back up to basketball speed and conditioning levels.

He said that they are still in the process of finalizing rotations and starting lineups, but Pope said he would love to be able to utilize a deep, 10- or 11-man rotation.

“If you can get there by staying healthy and all your guys being fully committed, that’s a scary team,” he said. “You just come in waves. The thought of being able to play a rotation that big is really exciting. Our guys have got to stay healthy; our young guys need to mature really fast; everybody has to check their ego at the door so that this team can be successful. If we can get those things done and have good fortune, it would be a gift.”

Last season, the Cougars rallied under the mantra of being the “best locker room in America.” Pope said maintaining that collectiveness as a team is always a work in progress and said he preaches the principle of “enlightened self-interest,” where players who completely buy in to the team are “paid back a hundred times over.”

“Our ability to create the best locker room in America is directly tied to how each player does individually,” Pope said. “It’s not a one-time decision. You’re fighting so many voices all the time, including your internal voice. The world is not teaching these guys that the way to enjoy their greatest individual success is by losing themselves in the team, even though that is 100% true. We actually believe it is one of our top three keys to winning. Also, it is something that is distinctly built into the DNA of BYU. If this team can do it successfully, we’re going to have a great season.”

Fans will be able to stream BYU’s first open practice Wednesday, Oct. 14 at 6 p.m. MDT through the BYUtv app or on

Written by Bridger Beal-Cvetko

Bridger is a student at Utah Valley University where he studies journalism and mass communication. He is the sports editor of the on-campus newspaper, The Review. Bridger is a life-long Cougar fan and college football enthusiast.

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