With the emergence of BYU’s bench, is Trevin Knell a long-term starter?

Knell sees himself as a starter, but is trying not to focus on “the wrong things.”

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Brigham Young Cougars guard Trevin Knell (21) tries to shoot around Gonzaga Bulldogs forward Corey Kispert (24), in West Coast Conference Basketball action between the Brigham Young Cougars and the Gonzaga Bulldogs at the Marriott Center in Provo, on Monday, Feb. 8, 2021.

Provo • Soon after BYU’s 13-point win over Portland last week, head coach Mark Pope sat down at the podium and proceeded to go through nearly every player on the stat sheet.

He started with Seneca Knight, who is coming off arguably his best week in a BYU uniform. He then touched on Gideon George and Spencer Johnson, two other bench players who have seen more and more minutes as of late.

But as Pope went down the list, there was a pause and a notable omission. Trevin Knell didn’t make the cut. The starter — who had an offensive rating of zero against Portland — has seen his minutes increasingly stripped down in the last two weeks. It’s been a byproduct of players like Knight, George and Johnson garnering more minutes.

It begs the question, is Knell a long-term starter on this team? Or could he be replaced?

“I feel like everybody cares about that,” Knell told The Salt Lake Tribune. “Something I’m trying to [improve on] is putting my own personal agenda aside. To see guys like Gideon and Senaca play super well right now is awesome. I love those guys. I have great relationships with both of them.

“But I’m super confident. I talked to the coaches and they are super confident in me. I feel like I’m a huge asset.”

Knell feels like he is in the right role. But he readily admits that in the last few weeks he’s focused on “the wrong things.”

It is the reason why Pope yelled in practice this Tuesday that Knell’s defensive numbers were “killing” the team since the start of January. By Knell’s own self-evaluation, he is pressing on offense and sacrificing his defense.

And while his defense has been bad, his offense has also slipped. He hasn’t scored in double-digits since Jan. 6. Against Portland, Knell was only involved in 7% of the team’s possessions, tied for the lowest this season before he entered the starting lineup. Knell has seemingly disappeared from large portions of the game.

“He’s had a series of really, really tough defensive matchups the last couple of weeks,” Pope said of Knell’s play.

While the matchups may have been bad for Knell, the bench’s productivity has also factored in.

Notably, Knight scored 14 points off the bench in both games last week. He gobbled up rebounds and was involved in 38% of the team’s possessions. He played more minutes than Knell on Thursday and tied him on Saturday.

Johnson and George also played well. George had 10 points off the bench in 27 minutes last Thursday. And for his part, Johnson continues to play a consistent 20 minutes and act as a pseudo-starter.

“I’m just trying to fill voids,” Knight said on how he sees his role evolving. “Whether it’s scoring, defending, rebounding, whatever I can do to help this team win, I’m willing to do it.”

Johnson added a similar sentiment when asked about his role, saying he was BYU’s “do it all” guy.

But the more the trio plays, the less Knell gets on the floor. He didn’t play more than five consecutive minutes against Portland and only played 12 minutes against San Diego last week.

For the time being, it does not appear BYU is replacing Knell in the starting lineup. After practice, Pope came over to the junior while he was stretching to talk for about 10 minutes.

They discussed the challenge ahead. When BYU plays Santa Clara this week, Knell will have to guard yet another player both bigger and stronger than himself. He will start, but Pope wants more “urgency” from a player who has blended in.

“I can’t just be out there being a body,” Knell said. “I think Pope wants to see more of an edge in me. I want to show I’m taking it more personally and have more of an edge to my game.”