Gideon George drives against fellow newcomer Caleb Lohner in practice on Oct. 14. George is one of three transfers on this year’s squad, in addition to Matt Haarms and Brandon Averette. (BYU Photo)
Getting to know BYU Men’s Basketball transfer Gideon George
It has been quite the journey to BYU for transfer forward Gideon George. It started in Nigeria, where he’s from, and it took five trips to the American Embassy in Nigeria before he was finally granted a visa to come play basketball in the U.S.
“I went to the embassy and they gave me my visa — I was shocked,” George said. “I never believed it, I was like, ‘Woah’. I’ve gone through it, so I can give the testimony to people. It’s hard to get an American visa in Nigeria.”
After arriving in America, George played at New Mexico Junior College (NMJC) for two years. Last season, George averaged 14.5 points, eight rebounds and 1.3 assists per game for the Thunderbirds.
George adapted to the American style of basketball while at NMJC. He said one of the biggest differences was the speed.
“I will say Nigeria is way slower. You have to use strength all the time. But out here in America, the game is super fast, and you have to use your IQ to do everything. Almost all the basketball players are smart, so you have to outsmart them.”
Playing at NMJC helped George “a lot.” He worked with coaches to improve his shooting form and gained more confidence in his shot. He also watched “a ton of film,” something he had never done before back home.
George is looking forward to two things at BYU: getting a great education and playing basketball.
The Cougars’ style of play is what drew George to BYU. He said one of the reasons he chose to transfer here is because “they shoot the ball a lot.”
“Mark Pope doesn’t care as long as you’re wide open and as long as you own your shot,” George said. “He gives you that confidence to shoot the ball more.”
George will also look to make a difference for the Cougars on the defensive end.
“I’m trying to work on that as much as I can, to be the defensive guy on the team, the guy that can bring energy on the team,” George said. “Nowadays, if you can play defense, you can win a lot of games.”
Head coach Mark Pope made a point to emphasize this in a recent press conference.
“From the day he got here until today, I don’t know if I’ve seen a player grow more than (George). He’s so exciting,” Pope said. “He’s a guy that in one possession will come up with three deflections. Most of the guys try to get three deflections in one practice, and he’s getting three deflections in one possession.”
George was the first player to announce he was transferring to BYU over the summer. The Cougars also added Matt Haarms from Purdue, Brandon Averette from Utah Valley, and freshman Caleb Lohner, who originally signed with the University of Utah.
Away from the court, George is majoring in communications studies and his favorite place to eat is Buffalo Wild Wings. He also collects shoes to donate to people in his hometown of Minna, Nigeria with Time Out 4 Africa.