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Scott G Winterton, KSL

BYU's 7-foot Chinese signee has been released by new coach Mark Pope

By Sean Walker, KSL.com | Posted - Apr 18th, 2019 @ 7:33pm



PROVO — There's been a lot of shifting in college basketball the past few days, especially locally, where two Utah County universities are breaking in new head coaches.

Now the shakeup is moving to Provo.

BYU signee Shengzhe Li has been released from his national letter of intent, the 7-foot center from Shanghai, China confirmed Thursday on his Twitter account.

"I would like to thank BYU for (giving) me the opportunity to pursue my career at the D1 level," Li wrote. "I am so thankful for Cougar Nation, but because of the recent coaching changes, I have requested and been granted my release.

"It doesn’t mean I don’t like BYU anymore, but I’m going to see what school will give me the best opportunity to achieve my dreams."

Li was one of three players signed by former coach Dave Rose what proved to be his final signing day prior to retirement, joining Wasatch Academy forward Bernardo Da Silva and Timpview guard Nate Hansen. Da Silva, a Brazilian-born power forward who is not a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, remains committed to the Cougars if new coach Mark Pope wants him, while Hansen has received his church mission call and should return in time for the 2022 season.

The Chinese hooper prepped at Santa Margarita Catholic in California, where he was coached by former BYU assistant Jeff Reinart.

Reinart told several media outlets that Li is already drawing interest from several Pac-12 schools, among others.

As for BYU, the news comes as Pope as jumping into the NCAA’s spring recruiting period. He was recently spotted at Wasatch Academy, the private boarding school currently coached by former BYU-Hawaii and Lone Peak coach David Evans, and he’s likely looking to add more to his post presence for next year.

The Cougars are still looking to replace senior guard McKay Cannon and center Luke Worthington, as well as power forward Yoeli Childs, who announced that he was leaving school to pursue a professional career. Sophomore wing Rylan Bergersen and point guard Jahshire Hardnett have already announced intentions to transfer, and the Cougars will add former Gonzaga guard and Davis High star Jesse Wade, who sat out last season per NCAA regulations, and Las Vegas product Taylor Miller. The 6-foot-2 guard who averaged 27.0 points per game as a senior at Palo Verde High School en route to all-state honors by the Las Vegas Review-Journal recently returned from a two-year church mission to North Carolina and enrolled at BYU in January.

In addition, one of Pope’s former posts at Utah Valley, Wyatt Lowell, is also in the transfer portal. The reigning Western Athletic Conference freshman of the year from Gilbert, Arizona signed with Pope and the Wolverines over recruiting interest from BYU, among others, as what is believed to be the highest-rated prospect in Utah Valley history.

The 6-foot-10, 205-pound forward would transfer as a sophomore, meaning he would be required to sit out a season if he transferred to another Division I university if he does not obtain a waiver, according to NCAA regulations.

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