BYU still in mix for SLCC hoop star Sai Tummala, but competition is fierce
When the signing period for Division I college basketball began on Wednesday, BYU basketball coaches filled one of their two known scholarship openings, landing Salt Lake Community College guard Skyler Halford. You can read more about Halford's signing here.
But what about the second scholarship? Will they fill that soon as well? When he met with beat writers who cover BYU basketball on Tuesday, coach Dave Rose said they are targeting four or five other guys.
One of those players with a BYU offer in hand is Sai Tummala, Halford's teammate at SLCC. Tummala is a 6-foot-6, 212-pounder who originally attended Michigan and redshirted his freshman season in Ann Arbor.
He averaged 14.2 points and 5.9 rebounds a game for the Bruins last season, after averaging 17.7 points and 8.1 rebounds a game his senior season at Brophy College Preparatory School in Phoenix.
SLCC coach Todd Phillips told me Thursday afternoon that Tummala has not decided on a school yet, but that BYU is still in the mix. Phillips said Tummala will take another week or two to make the decision and has until the signing period ends in mid-May to make his choice.
Tummala had about 15 offers at the end of SLCC's regular season, and narrowed his choices to BYU, Santa Clara, Nebraska and Georgia. The excellent student who wants to go to medical school visited Ivy League schools Penn and Brown earlier in the season, but has decided he wants to play for a higher-profile program.
However, Tummala played well at nationals in Kansas, and his recruitment "has kinda blown up" since then, Phillips said.
His hometown school, Arizona State, has jumped into the picture with an offer, as has Minnesota under new coach Richard Pitino. He recently visited Nebraska, which has turned up its interest, and will visit Georgia in the next week or so.
Phillips said BYU was probably the frontrunner a month ago, but things have obviously changed.
"Still, I know BYU is right there in that group of schools he likes and is still considering," Phillips said.
Tummala is not LDS but would not have trouble living the BYU Honor Code, Phillips said, but noted that "it is going to be hard for him to say no to ASU because he basically grew up right down the street from that school."
Tummala likes the way BYU plays and is friends with junior point guard Matt Carlino from their days playing with and against each other in Arizona summer leagues.
Of course, Phillips also coached Halford at SLCC, and says the combo guard is an excellent fit for BYU.
"He will help fill a lot of their needs," he said.
Phillips also coached Craig Cusick at SLCC and says Halford is a better shooter, and quicker than Cusick, but not as steady. That's because Halford is not afraid to take chances and is a better penetrator, which leads to more mistakes, but also more big plays for himself and his teammates.
"His presence alone is going to make [Matt] Carlino a better player," Phillips said, because Halford can do something that BYU's other backup point guards this past season -- Cusick and Cory Calvert -- can't do, which is score points when he needs to.
Phillips said Halford is also a "high effort guy" who never takes a play off or lets up while he is on the court, at either end.
Another SLCC product whom Phillips sent to BYU last year, wing Agustin Ambrosino, did not get a lot of playing time last season and was seen as a bust to most fans. However, Phillips believes Ambrosino will make an impact next season.
"He's a bit discouraged, and he's fought through a lot, but I think he will get it going," Phillips said.
Ambrosino did not attend BYU's annual year-end banquet on Tuesday, but that was because he had a final exam that he absolutely could not miss. Phillips expects him to return in 2013-14.
I wrote a BYU football spring camp wrapup story for Thursday's newspaper, focusing on how plans to speed up the offense are coming along, which can be found here.
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