Provo • Alex Barcello lives by one main motto: be yourself.
But during his time at Arizona, he lost himself. And almost lost his will to play basketball altogether.
Luckily, Barcello was able to find his way to BYU over the summer – and was granted a NCAA transfer waiver in late October just in time for the start of the 2019-20 season. Instantly, Barcello made an impression on Cougar Nation.
In the season opener against Cal State Fullerton, Barcello teamed up with senior TJ Haws to put up a team-high 17 points each. Since then, Barcello has come to be known as a sharp 3-point shooter and the high-energy player to lead post-game celebrations in the locker room.
“Sometimes, in a game, if we make a run, I look at (the fans) and I just know that they're always there screaming and rooting for us,” Barcello said. “And I love it. It is such a blessing to have my team accept me and then also Cougar Nation, which are, I think, the best fans in the country. Everywhere we go we have Cougar fans and BYU fans and it's a huge blessing to see that much support and value in the university and where they've come from.
“It really makes it a special place. So, I'm extremely thankful.”
His performance on and off the court couldn't be more different than what he showed as a Wildcat.
BYU VS. LOYOLA MARYMOUNT
At the Marriott Center
When • Saturday, 7 p.m.
TV • BYUtv
Last season, at Arizona, Barcello played in 30 games and averaged 3.3 points and added 26 rebounds, 15 assists and 10 steals.
So far this season, Barcello is averaging 10.6 points while adding 43 rebounds, 30 assists and 13 steals.
But what brought Barcello to BYU? And what inspired his breakthrough performance?
It was actually a mix of things, but his decision to transfer could most easily be explained due to the controversy-filled Arizona program.
In late February 2018, ESPN reported that the FBI had wiretaps of Arizona coach Sean Miller offering $100,000 to former Adidas consultant Christian Dawkins to get Deandre Ayton to sign with the Wildcats.
In June 2019, Arizona assistant coach Emanuel “Book” Richardson was sentenced to three months in prison and two years of supervised released for his guilty plea to a federal bribery charge related to his role in the FBI investigation.
In the recording of the FBI-intercepted phone call, Richardson told Dawkins that Miller was paying Ayton $10,000 per month while attending UArizona. Richardson chose to plead guilty rather than go to trial.
Miller was never charged with anything.
Arizona was one of many schools involved in the federal trial, but is still waiting for the NCAA to disclose its investigation findings.
But the controversy surrounding Miller and the Wildcats' star center was really just the tip of the iceberg for Barcello.
“I was already kind of thinking about it, looking to leave,” Barcello said. “And then that on top of it, when I really took a step back and looked at everything that was going on and I wanted, I just felt like that on top of it, with everything that has happened in the media, I needed a new start. A fresh environment. Just an environment that fit me better.”
Barcello was the No. 2 recruit in the state of Arizona and member of the ESPN Top 100 in the 2017 class. While at Corona del Sol High School in Tempe, Barcello helped lead the Aztecs to a pair of 6A state championships and was named the 2015 and 2017 Arizona Gatorade Player of the Year.
With that resume, Barcello felt he wasn't getting enough playing time.
His relationships with some of his teammates also wasn't what he was looking for.
Then there were also some personal issues. While every family goes through tough situations, Barcello said, there was a family member that would come down to campus too often and try to get involved.
“And just being here, it just eliminates all that,” Barcello said. “It eliminates everything and I just needed a fresh start, like I said.”
When Barcello started looking into different programs, he was interested in Wake Forest, Butler, BYU and some schools on the East Coast. It dwindled down to Butler and BYU, but when he visited both schools, the Provo campus really stuck out to him.
“I was just like 'wow, I don't know why I didn't see you guys the first time around,'” Barcello said.
While Barcello was raised in the Catholic religion, but is no longer a practicing Catholic, he's not a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. But that never influenced his decision to come to the LDS-owned university.
Learning of the Honor Code initially surprised Barcello a bit, especially coming from a school where it was normal to party and former Wildcat teammate Ira Lee was cited for an extreme DUI.
But instead of being scared of the Honor Code, Barcello embraced it because that’s what makes BYU special.
He also believes the Honor Code plays a part in why BYU athletics is so successful.
So, now fully converted from Wildcat to Cougar, Barcello will continue to be the high-player, celebrating every accomplishment alongside his team because he knows how important it is to do so. As long as they keep putting in the work, they deserve it. And that’s what it’s about, so why not enjoy it?
“These guys have known ever since I got here that I’ve got this certain energy about me, but it speaks to where I came from, because where I came from I got into a really bad place where I lost sight of who I was and didn’t know if basketball was the right path for me where I was heading at UA," Barcello said. “With how much I love the game and how much work I put into it every single day, it just brings that out in me. That’s who I am and I know nobody is going to take that away from me again.”