BYU basketball coach Mark Pope eager for Cougar fans to get to know Purdue transfer Matt Haarms

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Head coach for BYU Mark Pope yells to his team as BYU takes on UNLV in men's NCAA basketball at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City on Sat. Dec. 7, 2019.

The BYU coaching staff will continue to monitor the transfer portal for any other potential gets for the Cougars, but it seems Mark Pope has wrapped up his 2019-20 recruiting class. The bow on top being the commitment of Purdue transfer Matt Haarms.

While Haarms has yet to turn in the necessary paperwork to officially become a Cougar, the announcement of his commitment to the BYU program on Thursday sent the college basketball world into a bit of a frenzy.

Pope was not among those taken aback.

“It’s crazy to think about BYU as being a hidden gem — that’s ridiculous,” Pope said. “It’s not a hidden gem. But in terms of maybe competing in this rarefied air of recruiting, maybe people see us that way a little bit.”

Pope, who's going into his season at the helm of BYU men's basketball, credited former coach Dave Rose and all the other coaches that came before him for building a tradition and having a hand in bringing top facilities to Provo.

Enough to rival the top college basketball programs in the country.

Add the success that Pope had in his first season at BYU and the performance his top players brought every game, and it shouldn’t come as that big of a shock as to why Haarms decided to come to Provo for his final year of eligibility.

Purdue center Matt Haarms (32) goes up to block the shot ov Minnesota forward Michael Hurt (42) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in West Lafayette, Ind., Thursday, Jan. 2, 2020. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

BYU beat out top programs that included the likes of Kentucky, Gonzaga, Arizona and other top Power Five programs to get Haarms.

“I feel like we’re doing the right thing when we’re recruiting against good teams,” Pope said. “I think it gives you a lot of confidence because it means you’re probably hanging out in the right part of the portal. … We were so excited to just to be in [Haarm’s] final three [schools to choose from] because the list of 10 was just the who’s who of college basketball.”

Even though Haarms only has one more year of eligibility left, Pope hopes Cougar Nation will still be able to connect with the Purdue transfer.

Over the last few weeks, Pope has already gotten to know Haarms more than he could have ever imagined.

“I almost feel this urgency for BYU fans to get to know him because he’s only going to be here for one year and it’s going to come and go so fast,” Pope said. “I don’t want people to miss out on him because he’s got so much depth and he’s such a fascinating human being.”

But Haarms only highlights a strong recruiting class that will make its way to BYU. Pope and his staff also nabbed two junior college transfers — Gideon George and Spencer Johnson.

George, a 6-foot-6 forward, is coming in from New Mexico Junior College and Johnson, a 6-5 guard, is coming over from Salt Lake Community College.

By the time Johnson comes to BYU, it will have been his fourth school. Johnson started his collegiate career at Weber State, which he signed to before his church mission. After one semester, Johnson transferred to Utah Valley, where he redshirted. Then Pope, who had been coaching the Wolverines at the time, took a job at BYU and Johnson left Utah Valley for Salt Lake Community College.

“Here’s a kid that went to American Fork High School and just kept proving everybody wrong,” Pope said. “And he’s already played at three different schools and he’s just coming in as a sophomore, which I love. He proved himself, went out and took the long road … and what’s been most impressive to me about Spencer over the last year is how his athleticism has just gone through the roof.”

Then there’s the younger talent that signed — Richie Saunders and Dallin Hall, who both just finished up their high school careers.

Saunders made a name for himself at Wasatch Academy, where he averaged 14.6 points, 5.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.9 steals. Hall lead his team at Fremont to a 2019-20 6A state title and averaged 22.6 points, 7.6 rebounds, 7.1 assists and 2.0 steals his senior year.

Both Saunders and Hall will serve a church mission before enrolling at BYU. At least, that's the plan right now.

“Everything’s changing so fast … but the feedback that we’ve got so far, the general timeline, is guys are leaning towards kind of staying on the expected timeline,” Pope said. “But things could change at any moment as they already have so many times.”

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