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Alex Barcello recovered the ball after Atiki Ally Atiki’s shot was blocked. The senior BYU guard retreated to the right wing and took one hard dribble baseline before crossing over and leaving a defender in the proverbial dust.
As Barcello stepped back behind the 3-point line and rose up to shoot, the Cougars bench rose in unison. As the ball swished in, the crowd erupted in unison.
Barcello and three other seniors played their last BYU home game last Saturday in what became a blowout win over the Pepperdine Waves heading into the West Coast Conference Tournament. It was the last time fans would see Barcello’s prolific shooting in Provo. The last time they’d see him thwomp on the Marriott court while diving for a loose ball or finishing at the rim in traffic.
But when Barcello’s college basketball career is officially over, will it be the start of his name being mentioned in the same breath as some BYU’s all-time greatest guards?
“Just watching all those years, I kind of take little bits and pieces of the best guards and you kind of make an Alex Barcello out of that,” former Cougars player Mark Durrant told The Salt Lake Tribune. “He’ll go down, in my book, as one of the best guards to ever play at BYU.”
Durrant has been watching BYU men’s basketball teams for more than 40 years. His brother, Devin, played for the Cougars in the 1970s and ’80s. Mark Durrant played from 1989-95, and has spent the last 25 years on the sidelines as a color commentator for BYU Radio.
That means Durrant has seen the likes of Danny Ainge, Nate Call, Tyler and T.J. Haws, Chase Fischer and Jimmer Fredette. Ask anyone who has historical knowledge about Cougars men’s basketball, and those names will inevitably be mentioned among the program’s greatest guards.
Barcello is in his third and final year at BYU. He didn’t get as much time as the others to climb as far up the record books in categories such as total points, wins, 3-point field goals made.
But the record book will show Barcello as one of only three BYU players to make at least nine 3-pointers in a single game. It will show him among the players with more than 1,000 points in his career. He’ll be among the top 20 in 3-point field goals made. He’ll likely be in the top five in free throw percentage.
The record book already shows him as holding the current record for 3-point percentage (48.1%) and effective field goal percentage (61.5%). He also has the most 3-pointers in a game without a miss (seven).
But when some think about Barcello’s legacy at BYU, they look at whether he has a signature moment on a big stage that immortalized him in the eyes of fans and media.
“What he doesn’t have going for him right now is an NCAA Tournament run or even an NIT-type of Final Four appearance,” ESPN960 analyst Benjamin Criddle said. “He doesn’t have maybe an iconic game in which he’s been a part of that he was the lead protagonist. That’s the knock against him.”
Barcello’s first season with the team was a COVID-19-shortened one, and he only got to play in one NCAA Tournament game last year — a loss to UCLA. So the sample size for his postseason career is small at the moment.
Be that as it may, not everyone thinks Barcello needs an immortalizing moment on a big stage to cement himself into BYU lore.
“He’s had game-winning moments and game-stealing moments,” BYU Radio host Greg Wrubell said. “The size of the stage may vary, but his impact on the team and its ability to win has been constant.”
Heading into the WCC Tournament, Barcello had a 65-24 overall record. He started all 89 games in which he appeared. His shooting splits were 48.8% from the field, 44.4% from the 3-point line and 87.3% from the free throw line — ever so close to the 50-40-90 efficiency that only the purest shooters ever achieve.
Durrant said Barcello’s toughness reminds him of Ainge, his shooting ability reminds him of Fredette and his leadership reminds him of T.J. Haws.
Former BYU assistant coach Tim LaComb said Barcello’s tenacity reminds of Jackson Emery, who he coached alongside Fredette. He also believes Barcello has a “warrior mentality” like Lee Commard did.
In LaComb’s mind, the greatest BYU players are remembered for how far they took their teams. With BYU firmly on the bubble of the NCAA Tournament picture, it’s unclear if Barcello will get that chance. But LaComb is confident.
“I still believe he’s got something left to say,” LaComb said. “And typically the greatest of all, they leave a mark that nobody can really question, and that’s through what their teams are able to do.”
Still, many believe Barcello is already among the top 10 guards in BYU history. Criddle believes he may even be in the top five of the last 25 years.
Coach Mark Pope admitted he isn’t too familiar with all who came before Barcello. But he said recently that anyone would be hard-pressed to find another player who transferred to the school, connected with the fan base and grew as a person as much as Barcello did in the last three years.
“In some sense, he’s already written a storybook ending,” Pope said.
Barcello himself doesn’t seem all that interested in his place among the BYU greats. He wants to legacy to be about how he impacted winning.
“I just want to be known as a guy that gave it his all every time he stepped out on the floor,” Barcello said. “A guy who was willing to do everything that the team needed — whether that was scoring, rebounding, locking up one of their best offensive players, whether that’s just communicating to guys on the court and leading them.”
Barcello’s stepback 3-pointer last Saturday sparked a run that allowed the Cougars to separate from Pepperdine en route to a 75-59 victory. Amid the uproarious celebrations, he tapped on his left wrist where a watch might be.
And when it comes to Barcello solidifying his BYU legacy, there might still be time.