Eye on the Y: Could BYU men’s basketball be starting an African pipeline?

The Cougars get commitment from Tanzanian player.

(Photo courtesy of BYU athletics) BYU basketball coach Mark Pope talks to his players at a recent practice for the upcoming season.

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Remember that BYUtv “Deep Blue” feature on Gideon George I mentioned last week? Well it seems it made an impact on more people than just me. Most importantly, it helped the Cougars nab some top-notch talent.
Earlier this week reports came out that Tanzanian big man Atiki Ally Atiki committed to BYU — first reported by Jeff Goodman and later confirmed by JUCO Advocate and London Basketball Academy.
Atiki won’t officially sign his National Letter of Intent until April, but it bodes well for the future of the Cougars. And it continues to show off coach Mark Pope’s recruiting chops.
Pope seemingly knows how to get the best under-the-radar talent from just about anywhere.
Atiki, a 6-foot-11, 235-pound big man, is rated a 3-Star prospect by Rivals. But he has so much more potential.
After growing up in Tanzania, Atiki got the opportunity a couple of years ago to go to the London Basketball Academy in London, Ontario. The move helped him land on college teams’ radar; Besides BYU, Atiki was also being recruited by Baylor, Oklahoma, San Diego State and many others.
Football has a Polynesian pipeline, but could this be the start of an African pipeline for the basketball team? Possibly.
Even if Pope isn’t able to continue to recruit talent that originates in Africa, the addition of Atiki is big. Although the Cougars have had six different leading scorers throughout their games this season, the bulk of production and leadership come from the three seniors — Alex Barcello, Brandon Averette and Matt Haarms.
Averette and Haarms have already said they’re sticking to their original plan and only playing at BYU for one year even though the NCAA said they could come back for another season due to the pandemic.
I don’t believe Barcello has made any such decision yet, but the Cougars would still need to continue to bring in more talent regardless.
What are your thoughts?

Kalani Sitake talks about Zach Wilson

With Zach Wilson being projected to be a top five NFL draft pick, there’s no denying there’s a lot of hype around the Corner Canyon High School product.
From the very start, Sitake said he was impressed by Wilson’s athleticism.

“A lot of people don’t realize the type of athlete that he is,” Kalani said. “He was a point guard in high school basketball, he’s got an amazing vertical [leap], he’s got a lot of burst and twitch, he can play a lot of different positions and he just happens to sling the ball really well. That’s why he’s playing quarterback.”
The pair also discussed the comparisons that have been made to Patrick Mahomes with Wilson’s sling, or sidearm passes. And they talked about Wilson’s letter to Sitake after the season was over and the quarterback declared for the draft, which was shared on social media.
It’s a move that isn’t too common, but seemed to epitomize Sitake’s and Wilson’s relationship.
“Coaching him has made me a better person, and I’m looking forward to keeping that relationship with him and his family, just like I’m trying to do with the rest of his teammates,” Sitake said.

More thoughts

• This week’s road trip couldn’t be more important to BYU basketball. The Cougars haven’t played since Feb. 8, when they fell to top-ranked Gonzaga, and it’s looking like they won’t get to reschedule any of their previously postponed games. With the postseason just a couple of weeks away, it’s key for BYU to get back into game-day mentality — especially if they eventually opt to skip the West Coast Conference tournament. We should have more clarity on that within the next week or so.
• In case anyone missed it, Connor Mantz smashed a BYU record and set a best 2021 world time at the recent UW Invitational. All-American Mantz ran a 13:28.00 in the 5,000 meters, the fastest time in the world this year, to set a BYU track and field indoor record. The previous BYU record of 13:34.46 was set by Clayton Young in 2019.

Other voices

• Apparently ForTheWin.com isn’t digging the rumors that BYU’s Zach Wilson could be better than Trevor Lawrence.
• But according to Casey Lundquist of SI, multiple teams have Wilson ahead of Lawrence.
• As part of Black History Month, Dr. Derwin Gray and wife Vicki shared a ‘Root Out Racism’ message to BYU Athletics, Mitch Harper of KSL Sports wrote.

Normita’s Spanish Lesson of the Week

Due to the recent weather we’ve been having, I’ll give y’all an easy one.
Parece que por fin llegó el invierno.
It seems winter has finally arrived.
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