Eye on the Y: The Cougars’ big win over Gonzaga helped BYU win over a talented JUCO transfer

BYU students and fans celebrate on the court following BYU's 91-78 victory over Gonzaga in an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Feb. 22, 2020, in Provo, Utah. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

Eye on the Y is The Salt Lake Tribune’s weekly newsletter covering BYU athletics. Subscribe here.

Beating Gonzaga on Senior Night has proved to be an even bigger accomplishment for the Cougars than what we initially thought. Sure, we all expected the win to move BYU multiple spots up on the AP Poll (and it did), but it also proved to be a great recruiting tool.

Looking back at it, how could it not be?

After visiting BYU and seeing the Cougars defeat the Zags in person, Gideon George committed to BYU. The 6-foot-6 forward is the third commitment in BYU's 2020 recruiting class.

Spencer Johnson from Salt Lake Community College and Richie Saunders out of Wasatch Academy signed with the Cougars during the early signing period last November.

A native of Nigeria, George has lived in the United States the last two years and will have three years of eligibility to play with the Cougars.

George is currently averaging 14.3 points and eight rebounds per game while shooting 50% from the field at New Mexico Junior College and also has offers from Weber State, Jacksonville State, Portland State, Kent State and Cal State Bakersfield, but is expected to sign with BYU during the regular signing period.

With the level of talent the Cougars are graduating this year, it’s almost impossible to think of how the team will recover next season. But it looks like we still have plenty of season left before we have to worry about that.

Football is almost back (well, kind of)

I know basketball is still going strong, and it’s getting to the most exciting part of their season, but football is getting back in the fold of things as well. BYU football will start spring ball on Monday, going through March 28 with Pro Day scheduled for March 27.

With the way the 2019 season ended (mostly on a note of disappointment), I know I’m interested to see how the Cougars are going to start working through their problems. Also, I’m interested in getting to see the battle of the quarterbacks.

After Zach Wilson got injured, Jaren Hall and Baylor Romney did a great job of stepping up. However, Hall suffered two concussions in two games in less than a months time and Romney had his own deal of injuries, mostly dealing with turf toe.

I’ll also be interested in seeing the mid-year additions and what they bring to the mix.

More thoughts

• Last week, Paisley Johnson became the second player this season to reach the 1,000-point club. Senior Brenna Chase Drollinger become the 30th player in program history to hit the milestone back in November, but Johnson is just the 15th junior to do so. The Cougars will close out the regular season on a two-game home stand, hosting Pepperdine Thursday night and Loyola Marymount Saturday afternoon.

• Speaking of women’s basketball, Sara Hamson was selected as a semifinalist for the 2020 Naismith Women’s Defensive Player of the Year Award, the Atlanta Tipoff Club announced on Tuesday. The BYU junior center is one of 10 women’s college basketball players selected. Hamson, one of three juniors on the list, ranks first nationally un total blocked shots (119) and in blocked shots per game (4.58). The finalists will be revealed March 13 and the winner will be announced on April 4.

• The WCC announced the 2019-20 WCC All-Academic team on Wednesday. On the men’s side, TJ Haws and Connor Harding earned the selection. Haws, a three-time honoree, is majoring in finance and posts a 3.46 GPA. Harding, a pre-business major, boasts a 3.26 GPA. On the women’s side, Sara Hamson earned recognition with 3.83 GPA in bioinformatics and Maria Albiero made the honorable mention list.

• If you guys haven’t seen BYU men’s basketball video of Evan Troy interviewing his teammates after the Gonzaga game, then I don’t know what you’ve been doing with your life. It’s the cutest thing ever. And while Troy is definitely just having fun with it, he totally shows potential as a sports broadcaster. Maybe we can get him to start joining the media in post-game press conferences so he can sharpen up his talent.

Other voices

• While TJ Haws seemed to initially underachieve after arriving at BYU, the senior has now found redemption, Patrick Kinahan wrote for KSL Sports.

• BYU men’s basketball’s success this season has people remembering the days of “Jimmer-mania.” So, why not look back as some of the top Jimmer moments. That’s what the Daily Herald’s Phillip Morgan did.

Maria Albiero stepped in after Shaylee Gonzalez torn her ACL prior to the start of the year, and now she’s helping the Cougars take a turn for the better, Brandon Gurney of the Deseret News wrote.