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PROVO — Just call them the BYU Wolverines.
OK, not quite. But when former Utah Valley coach Mark Pope took the same job at BYU, he almost immediately began to see attrition from his former school in favor of his new position.
First, he secured a commitment from Jake Toolson, the one-time BYU wing graduating from Utah Valley who will have one season of college basketball eligibility remaining.
Then he earned a commitment from Wyatt Lowell, the former 6-foot-10 four-star recruit who shot 37.6 percent from 3-point range a year ago en route to Western Athletic Conference freshman of the year honors.
American Fork star Trey Stewart, whose father Ray played at Utah Valley but currently coaches the BYU women’s basketball team, was released from his national letter of intent with UVU and committed to follow Pope to Provo after serving a two-year mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Now add another ex-Wolverine to the list.
The Cougars announced Wednesday afternoon that 6-foot-11 center Richard Harward has signed a financial aid agreement to play for the Cougars, along with Lowell and Stewart.
Harward, who prepped at nearby Orem High School, slowly emerged as one of the Wolverines’ top post players last year, averaging 10.8 points and 7.1 rebounds in the final 18 games of the season for the Wolverines.
“Richard Harward has some of the best ‘insides’ in college basketball. He welcomes challenges and adversity and has an incredible desire to rise above it."@CoachMarkPope#BYUhoopspic.twitter.com/XCzGBq5bHz— BYU Basketball (@BYUbasketball) May 8, 2019
After returning from a two-year church mission in Australia, Harward struggled to acclimate to Division I basketball immediately before finding his groove and showing flashes of the former first-team all-state selection who led the Tigers to a 20-6 record and a spot in the Class 4A state semifinals as a senior.
“Richard Harward has some of the best ‘insides’ in college basketball,” Pope said in a statement. “He welcomes challenges and adversity, and has an incredible desire to rise above it. He has developed into a top-level rim protector and rebounder, and brings an enormous physicality to the game.
“And with an efficiency of 1.172 points per possession, he turned out to be one of the most forceful and skilled offensive post players and passers in the country under the guidance of Chris Burgess (who is now an assistant coach at BYU).”
The younger brother of former BYU post Ian, Richard Harward played two seasons at Utah Valley and has not used a redshirt year. He’ll have two years of eligibility remaining after sitting out, per NCAA transfer regulations.
The same will be the case with Lowell, who will have three seasons of eligibility as a redshirt sophomore when he is available for the 2020-21 season. Stewart has received a mission call to England and will fulfill those obligations before enrolling at BYU.
“I’m not sure if Wyatt Lowell is going to be a two guard, a wing or a power forward,” Pope said. “What I do know is he’s a 6-10 baller with a silky stroke and a high basketball IQ who loves this game and has dreams of accomplishing great things."@CoachMarkPope#BYUhoopspic.twitter.com/6sD8Bz1grL— BYU Basketball (@BYUbasketball) May 8, 2019
The 6-foot-3 Stewart averaged 14.8 points as a senior at American Fork, leading the Cavemen to the Class 6A state title with a 66-57 win over rival Pleasant Grove.
But the combo guard was best known for his abilities above the rim, delivering dunk after dunk during American Fork’s title run.
“This young man has a beautiful way of introducing himself to the competition,” Pope said of Stewart. “Certainly, current and past great dunkers like Gavin Baxter, Yoeli Childs, Brandon Davies, Mike Hall and Travis Hansen have left their mark on the rims in the Marriott Center. But Trey Stewart might take it to another level.
“Combine that with an innocent, joyful approach to this game, his ability to make shots and guard anybody and everybody on the floor simultaneously, this kid is going to be a star when he rolls back into town after his mission.”
In addition to the trio from UVU, the Cougars also earned a commitment from former Lehi standout Blaze Nield. The No. 2-rated point guard in the state out of high school, Nield averaged 20.9 points, 5.2 rebounds and 4.1 assists while shooting 40.7 percent from 3-point range in one season at USU Eastern after serving a mission in Washington D.C.
Nield, who will be a preferred walk-on, will be immediately eligible at BYU. He’ll join a list of six sophomores, including Lowell; returning freshmen Gavin Baxter, Connor Harding and Kolby Lee; and Jesse Wade, the former Davis High star who redshirted last year after transferring from Gonzaga.
In addition to the newcomers, the Cougars previously signed Wasatch Academy forward Bernardo Da Silva, former Las Vegas prep scoring ace Taylor Miller, and Woods Cross grad and one-time Cal signee Trevin Knell to letters of intent. Chinese-born center Shengzhe Li was previously released from a letter of intent signed with BYU.