Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Connor Harding defends against Pacific in the Marriott Center. Harding and three other BYU players announced their plans to enter the transfer portal and explore their options in the offseason. (Preston Crawley)

BYU men’s basketball loses 4 players to transfer portal as offseason begins

The BYU men’s basketball team had four players announce their decisions to enter the transfer portal in the two weeks following the end of the season. Those players were former starters Kolby Lee and Connor Harding, as well as transfers Wyatt Lowell and Jesse Wade. 

The transfer portal is an actual website where coaches all over the country can go to find and recruit players looking for a new home in the college ranks.

Wade, a junior point guard, was the first to declare his intentions, announcing his plans on Twitter on March 24.

“I had a great talk with Coach Pope today and I will be entering the transfer portal to explore possible options,” Wade said on Twitter. “There are multiple ways this can go and no doors are closed anywhere, including BYU. I just simply want to explore options and see what is out there.”

Wade has had a less-than-ideal college career thus far. He started at Gonzaga, but after a lackluster first year, decided to transfer to BYU. After waiting the requisite year due to NCAA rules, Wade faced critical knee issues and used a medical redshirt for the 2019-20 season. He was finally able to play again last season but rarely saw the court. 

The next to declare was Harding, also a junior. After a breakout 2019-20 season, many expected Harding to be one of the leaders of the team this year. He began this season as a starter but struggled to meet expectations, and finished the season coming off the bench. Harding’s role in the starting lineup was largely filled by newcomers Caleb Lohner and Gideon George.

Lowell, who followed head coach Mark Pope over from UVU, announced on March 30 that he was entering the transfer portal.

He spent most of the last year plagued by injuries, including a season-ending Achilles injury against Gonzaga. Lowell has played in only seven games, averaging two points a game. 

Lee declared his intentions via Twitter on March 30 as well, completing one of the busiest transfer weeks in recent memory for the Cougars.

“From starting and playing in the awesome game last year as we took down Gonzaga, to making it to the NCAA tournament this year, it’s been a fun ride,” Lee said on Twitter. “Although this year didn’t play out how I wanted it to, I enjoyed the friendships and the brotherhood I made with my teammates.”

Like Harding, Lee saw his minutes significantly reduced as the season went on. The big man started the first 15 games of the season but was later overshadowed by Purdue transfer Matt Haarms and Lohner. Both Lee and Harding also have spouses that play for the BYU women’s basketball team: Kayla Belles Lee and Paisley Harding.

Assuming these four players land elsewhere, and everything goes as planned with the incoming BYU signees, BYU will have two scholarship spots to fill. Pope could fill these spots with additional signees or, as has been his tendency in the past, transfer athletes. 

In his two-year tenure at BYU, Pope has always managed to get the pieces he needs to build a successful team. Why should this year be any different?

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