Now that guard Alex Barcello has decided to return for one more season, BYU’s chances of returning to the NCAA Tournament have increased significantly.
Next season, the Cougars will boast an experienced backcourt with Barcello and Milwaukee senior grad transfer Te’Jon Lucas.
As it turns out, Lucas helped recruit Barcello back to Provo.
“Barcello is an All-American guard. I love his game. I’ve watched a lot of film on him. I’d be grateful to play with him, another experienced guard. That’s what my job is going to be right now — try to get him to stay,” Lucas told the Deseret News last week. “I want to be able to play with the best, compete with the best. I feel like if we get him to come back, it will be good all-around for everybody. He has to make his decision and I want Alex to make the best decision for him. I respect his decision. But I would love to play with him. I will try to get him to stay there for sure.”
Barcello announced Friday that he’s taking advantage of an NCAA rule that allows seniors to return for another season due to the pandemic.
How were those conversations between Barcello and Lucas?
“He’s a phenomenal guy, a phenomenal player. I’m so excited to get on the court with him. He comes in June 11. The conversations were great. We’re both winners. We both want to win,” Barcello said. “He knows the coaching staff is a winning coaching staff. They do everything to get the best teams to play and also win those games and make the most out of every season. I think that’s what drew him in from my conversations with him. Being able to play with another great backcourt guy is awesome. You love to play with great players and he’s a great player. I’m very excited.”
Coach Mark Pope knows that Barcello and Lucas will complement each other well in the backcourt.
“Those dudes are so excited about playing together. You think about it — both of them are playmakers. It’s really important for us to have two playmakers on the floor. You could tell sometimes last year we got a little stagnant when we had only one of our two playmakers on the floor. When we had none, it was really troublesome,” Pope said. “Te’Jon averaged six assists a game. You can count on two hands how many guys in the country averaged six assists a game last year. The space those guys can provide each other and the playmaking ability they’ll provide for each other is going to be really special. We think it’s going to be a spectacular backcourt.”
Pope confirmed that Lucas recruited Barcello back to BYU and how the rest of the team can’t wait to play with a pair of experienced guards.
“I think AB’s really excited about (Lucas) coming,” Pope said. “Our guys know how hard it is to win. They don’t take it for granted. They’re hungry to play with great players. We want to do the impossible and take a step forward. There’s not very many spots to move up. They’re really excited to play with each other and compete with each other as well as the rest of the guys on the team.”
In 2020-21, Barcello averaged 16.1 points, 4.7 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game. He shot 52.3% from the field, including 47.7% from 3-point range. He shot 85.6% from the free throw line.
Of course, Pope is thrilled to have Barcello on the roster again.
“Clearly, on the court, skill-wise, it means so much. Him being a mentor to some of the young guys we have in this program, it means so much. Him bringing continuity to the program means so much,” Pope said. “His toughness and experience mean so much. Then his ambition means so much. This is a testament to all of our guys that he believes that he can get better, that hard work actually can propel him to an even higher level as a basketball player. He’s reached the top of it already but he believes another year is going to give him an even better chance to go earn his way onto a team in the NBA. That’s what he’s chasing. For all those reasons, he’ll have a massive impact on the program.”
Barcello is looking forward to playing one more season of college basketball with his Cougar teammates and he’s optimistic about what they can accomplish.
“Whatever the outside world is saying right now, we don’t care about. In our basketball facility, players, coaches, everybody knows we’re going to be a really good team. One of the things that made me come back is I haven’t won a conference championship here. I didn’t want to lose in the first round of the NCAA Tournament,” Barcello said. “The feelings of that pushes you more and more and makes me want to come back. I know there were things left on the table, like a conference championship, where we were right there. We had the talent to do it, but it just didn’t fall our way. I’m so excited for Gideon (George) and Caleb (Lohner), who had phenomenal seasons. But they were young. They’re going to grow so much more over this next summer. I think the sky’s the limit for them. Trevin (Knell), Spence (Johnson) and Te’Jon are talented guys and good people off the court.”
Once again, Pope and his staff will be blending a team with a mix of returnees and newcomers.
“We have guys that just want to get better every day. It’s what you walk into the gym thinking. That’s what this coaching staff does and that’s why I think we’ll have another phenomenal season,” Barcello said. “Every single guy on this team is one piece to our puzzle. Somehow, with Pope and this coaching staff, it always meshes together well. And hopefully we’ll have another great season and hopefully get that bitter taste (from the NCAA Tournament one-and-done last March) out of our months, for sure.”