Provo • Frank Bartley IV, the BYU freshman who is easily the Cougars’ biggest surprise in this 2013-14 basketball season, says he has answered one question in particular about 100 times since he arrived about six months ago.
How did a 6-foot-3, non-Mormon, African-American from a small, private, Christian high school in Baton Rouge, La., find his way to BYU?
“It is a long story, and kinda crazy,” he said. “I still can’t believe how it all happened.”
The story includes Hurricane Katrina, former Cougar Jimmer Fredette’s notoriety, a teammate at Future College Prep in the Los Angeles area by the name of Warren Sledge, some heady recruiting by the BYU coaching staff and Bartley’s deeply held belief in the power and importance of family.
“All those things played a part,” said Bartley, whose father, grandfather and great grandfather share the same name, which is the reason teammates occasionally call him Frank the Fourth.
BYU coach Dave Rose calls him a gift from heaven. In his first year in Provo, Bartley has quickly earned a role on the 7-3 team that will play host to Prairie View A&M on Wednesday at the Marriott Center, averaging 16.3 minutes, 8.4 points and 2.9 rebounds per game.
“First of all, he is a great, great kid,” Rose said. “He really had an interest in us when we approached him [last spring]. He comes from a wonderful family and really felt like this would be a comfortable place for him to go to school.”
Bartley grew up in New Orleans, but the summer before he was to enter the sixth grade, Hurricane Katrina pummeled the Gulf Coast. The day before the hurricane and flooding that would take more than 1,836 lives and disrupt thousands of others hit the mainland, the Bartley family — Frank III, Janice, their three daughters and Frank IV — fled 80 miles north to Baton Rouge.
They lived with relatives — 22 people stayed in one home for nearly three months — in Baton Rouge before making their permanent home there. Everything they owned in New Orleans, including their house, their keepsakes, family photographs, a couple of their automobiles, most of their clothes and furniture, had been destroyed.
“I had nothing to my name but some clothes,” Frank IV said, remembering how the family visited their old home a few months after the hurricane and found it still under 12 feet of water.
Bartley starred in football and basketball at Christian Life Academy in Baton Rouge, but the school is in Louisiana’s smallest classification (1A) and he had only a few college options. Southern Miss and some smaller schools in Louisiana offered football scholarships to the receiver, and LSU and Texas A&M talked to him about walking on.
But his heart was set on playing college basketball — despite his father having played college football. So in hopes of getting more exposure he headed to the prep school out west, where he helped a team from Carson, Calif., go 52-13 and win the West Coast Prep Championship. He averaged 19.0 points, 8.5 rebounds and 6.7 assists for the record-setting team.
College basketball coaches came calling, including BYU assistants Mark Pope and Terry Nashif at first, then Rose. The BYU coaches went to Future College Prep games to watch Sledge, who eventually signed with The Citadel, but discovered Bartley.
“He had the athletic ability, the skill level, and all those things,” Rose said. “We felt it was a perfect fit for what we were looking for.”
Bartley had visited Auburn and Fordham, and was just about to commit to Auburn before BYU asked him to visit Provo, and bring his parents.
“Jimmer,” Bartley said. “That’s all I knew about BYU at first. When they played in the Sweet 16 against Florida, I remember watching Jimmer. I found out it was a Mormon school, that played in this big arena, and had some rules [honor code] that were similar to the ones we had in high school. So, no problem there. When I came on my visit, I fell in love with it.”
So did Janice Bartley, who loved the beautiful mountains that tower above Provo, as well as the pro-family atmosphere. Frank IV said his mom felt the folks at BYU would take him in much like relatives did during the most difficult time in their lives. He signed his National Letter of Intent on Mother’s Day, 2013.
“Some people were like, ‘it is so far away from Louisiana, and it is really different,’” Frank IV said. “But my family was all for it. They were really excited about the opportunities for me here, and they were right. I love the people here, and the fans. It’s a great feeling to be here. Everything has gone really well, on and off the court.”
Prairie View A&M at BYU
O At the Marriott Center, Provo
Tipoff • 7 p.m.
TV • BYUtv. Radio • 1160 AM/102.7 FM
Records • BYU 7-3, Prairie View A&M 2-6
Series history • BYU leads, 1-0
Last meeting • BYU 90, PVAMU 51 (Nov. 22, 2011)
About the Cougars • Tyler Haws has made 45 of his last 46 free-throw attempts and leads them in scoring with a 23.8 average. … Forward Nate Austin is the team’s leading rebounder, grabbing 8.7 caroms per game. The second-leading rebounder is guard Kyle Collinsworth, at 8.4 rpg. … Matt Carlino has moved into 12th place on the all-time steals list, with 119 in his career.
About the Panthers • Coach Byron Rimm is in his eighth year and has a 90-139 record at the historically black university in Prairie View, Texas. … Their scheduled game Sunday against Dallas Christian College was postponed due to inclement weather in the Texas. … Montrael Scott, a 6-foot-3 guard, leads them in scoring with a 15.0 average. Fellow guard John Brisco chips in 12.1 ppg.
Frank Bartley IV file
• Graduated from Christian Life Academy high school in Baton Rouge, La., where he was a two-time all-stater in basketball and football.
• Played for a Los Angeles-area prep school known as Future College Prep that went 52-13 and set a national single-season scoring record
• Is averaging 16.3 minutes, 8.4 points and 2.9 rebounds a game for the 7-3 Cougars
• Scored a career-high 16 points against Mount St. Mary’s