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With four BYU Cougars in the transfer portal, center Matt Haarms reconsidering his decision to leave

BYU could lose out on Connor Harding, Kolby Lee, Wyatt Lowell and Jesse Wade.

(Isaac Hale | Special to The Tribune) Brigham Young University forward Matt Haarms (3) hugs his girlfriend as he is honored with other graduating seniors before a game between the BYU Cougars and the Saint Mary’s College of California Gaels held at the Marriott Center in Provo on Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021.

Even before the 2020-21 season started, Matt Haarms made his plans known: He would play at BYU for just one year, even if the NCAA would freeze eligibility due to the ongoing pandemic.

The NCAA did just that, placing a blanket waiver, yet Haarms continued to be adamant about his decision as the postseason started.

But something must have changed.

On Sunday, Haarms posted a photo on Instagram with the caption “weighing my options” followed by two thinking face emojis. The post took social media by storm with BYU fans asking the 7-foot-3 center to come back for another year.

So, why the change of heart?

It may be because of the major recent changes to the BYU roster.

Nearly two weeks ago, Jesse Wade announced he’d entered the transfer portal. Since then, three more players have done the same: Connor Harding, Kolby Lee and Wyatt Lowell.

Both Wade and Lowell transferred to BYU (from Gonzaga and Utah Valley, respectively), but, after sitting out a season due to transfer rules, were plagued by injuries that prevented them from contributing much to the team.

Harding and Lee, however, are a different story.

Harding went from being a key reserve last year to being an occasional starter and go-to reserve this year. However, he did average nearly two minutes less of playing time this season as compared to the 2019-20 season.

Lee, who started nearly every game a year ago, served as a starter for the Cougars early on in the 2020-21 season, but was eventually replaced by freshman Caleb Lohner. Once on the bench, Lee didn’t see much action the remainder of the season.

The 6-foot-9 forward averaged 10 minutes a game — more than a seven minute drop from the previous season.

What makes both Harding and Lee’s decision to enter the portal more interesting is that both Idaho natives are married to BYU women’s basketball players: Paisley Harding and Kayla Belles-Lee.

After the women bowed out of the NCAA Tournament, coach Jeff Judkins said his entire team planned to return for another season.

Of course, just because players enter the transfer portal, it doesn’t mean they will transfer. There’s still a chance some could choose to stay at BYU after shopping around.

Someone who has made his decision — and stuck to it — is Brandon Averette. A week ago the grad transfer from Utah Valley posted a series of photos, from his Oklahoma State days up to his time at BYU, with a caption that read: “You ever heard good time don’t last? Love all the brothers I’ve made along the way and thank you all for following my story.”

In case his decision to leave wasn’t clear enough, Averette included “#Chapter Closed” to his post.

Of this season’s three seniors, the only one to not ever clearly say he didn’t plan to take advantage of the NCAA eligibility waiver was Alex Barcello. And he’s been quiet on his social media accounts for the last couple of weeksuntil Tuesday.

An Instagram post by the BYU guard on Tuesday showed Barcello is considering his options as well.

Following the regular season finale, Pope took the court to thank fans for following along during the pandemic-plagued season and put his three seniors on the spot, asking them to make a spontaneous speech. However, Pope also revealed he’d try to recruit his seniors all over again.

It didn’t seem to work on Averette, but it seems to have caused Haarms to take pause and may have Barcello considering the same thing.

Should all four players in the portal leave, along with the vacancy Averette leaves behind, BYU will be hurting for talent and depth, but still have key returners on deck.

Pope’s recruiting skills will surely be put to the test this offseason to replenish his roster.

BYU MEN’S BASKETBALL RETURNEES

Returning Players

Gavin Baxter

Hunter Erickson

Gideon George

Richard Harward

Spencer Johnson

Trevin Knell

Caleb Lohner

Cameron Pearson

Townsend Tripple

Brandon Warr

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