Charlotte's Aly Khalifa commits to BYU, and 5 other transfers Cougars have targeted

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PROVO — The biggest target of BYU basketball's offseason additions brought big news to head coach Mark Pope and the Cougars late Sunday night when Egyptian international Aly Khalifa revealed his commitment on social media.

The 6-foot-11, 230-pound center announced his commitment to transfer to BYU on Sunday, bringing the All-Conference USA honorable mention who averaged 11.7 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.7 assists en route to a 22-14 record, including 20 points, four rebounds and four assists in a 71-68 win over Eastern Kentucky in the championship game of the College Basketball Invitational.

But he hasn't been the only new addition the coaches have been chasing since the end of the season.

"We'll be super aggressive in the portal, and see if we can augment our daily growth with a couple of veteran bodies," Pope said, adding the three keys his team is focused on improving is shooting the ball, protecting against turnovers, and getting older.

Khalifa, a 51% shooter who made 48-of-126 3-pointers a year ago, brings two years of college basketball experience and starts in 64 of 65 games during his time at Charlotte. The former C-USA Freshman of the Year, and gives Pope a third big man to work into the rotation that includes Fousseyni Traore and Atiki Ally Atiki — and could allow Traore to play the power forward position more often.

BYU also reached out to a top-tier guard in the portal in Texas A&M-Corpus Christi's Trey Tennyson, but the 6-foot-4, 180-pound scorer who averaged 15.7 points and 2.3 rebounds per game for the Islanders committed to TCU. In short, Pope — much like has has the past three years — has left no stone unturned when it comes to recruiting the portal.

With that in mind, here are five other transfers that the Cougars have already contacted.

Dawson Baker, G, UC Irvine

The 6-foot-4, 190-pound scoring threat from Coto De Caza, California, averaged 15.3 points, 3.2 rebounds and 1.2 assists per game as a junior for the Anteaters after returning from a two-year mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Micronesia, Guam.

Baker's connection to Utah consists primarily of his faith, but the three-year starter also has two older brothers Davis and Dusty who played at Southern Utah and Weber State, respectively. The former Big West Freshman of the Year in 2020-21 will take visits to Boise State, Utah and Utah State, in addition to BYU, in the next three weeks, he told Vanquish The Foe.

Utah State Aggies guard Steven Ashworth (3) drives to the basket during the first round of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament between Utah State and Missouri at the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento on March 16, 2023.
Utah State Aggies guard Steven Ashworth (3) drives to the basket during the first round of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament between Utah State and Missouri at the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento on March 16, 2023. (Photo: Ryan Sun, Deseret News)

Steven Ashworth, G, Utah State

The 6-foot-1, 170-pound junior from Alpine, Utah, grew up a BYU fan, but broke out for 16.2 points, 4.3 assists, 3.3 rebounds and 1.2 steals per game for an NCAA Tournament-bound Aggie squad that helped former coach Ryan Odom move on to VCU.

Ashworth, who starred at Lone Peak, heard immediately from BYU, Creighton, Washington and Gonzaga — as well as new Utah State coach Danny Sprinkle about a return for his senior year — upon entering the portal, and scheduled a visit last Friday to Creighton, he told 247Sports' Brandon Jenkins.

Creighton, which is looking to replace transferring point guard Ryan Nembhard, is considered the favorite to land Ashworth. But don't count out the loyalty to Utah State under new coach Danny Sprinkle, or Ashworth's family ties to BYU to stay in his home state, either. Those who knew the Aggies sharpshooter during his time in Cache Valley know well his loyalty, both to his former school and his home state.

"Being from Utah, there is excitement around the opportunity to stay in the state," Ashworth told 247Sports about BYU. "It is appealing to me because I would be close to family but it would not be the largest factor in my decision."

Editor's note: After publication, Ashworth announced his commitment to Creighton.

Joe Girard III, G, Syracuse

The 6-foot-1, 190-pound guard averaged 16.4 points, 3.0 assists and 2.8 rebounds per game as a senior for the Orange, but he entered the transfer portal after Jim Boeheim's retirement with eyes set on using his fifth season of eligibility due to the COVID-19 pandemic at another institution.

Girard has spoken highly of BYU as he's taken visits around the country, most recently to LSU. And why wouldn't he? The Glens Falls, New York, native went to the same high school as former BYU guard Jimmer Fredette — so he grew up with the Cougars' latest sensation that swept through his hometown.

"I've had a great relationship with Joe ever since he was really young," Fredette told ESPN radio in Utah County while promoting his new venture capitol project Tandem Ventures. "The Girard family is big in that area, and we played ball with his uncles, cousins, aunts and brothers. We're very close.

"Now he's got another big decision to make. i've definitely spoken to him and have talked about BYU and my experience there, and he's definitely considering BYU as an option."

Girard scheduled in-home visits with BYU, Clemson and Notre Dame after his transfer.

Drake Allen, G, Southern Utah

BYU reached out early to the 6-foot-4, 190-pound point guard from Eagle Mountain after he averaged 11.0 points, 3.7 assists and 1.4 steals per game in 37 games for the 24-13 Thunderbirds.

The former Westlake High standout was a junior college All-American second-team selection at Snow College, where he averaged 12.8 points, 6.0 assists and 2.2 steals per game in two seasons with the Badgers.

Allen has heard from a number of teams since entering the portal, including BYU, Utah, Utah Valley and Utah Tech since entering the portal, he told The Portal Report, but also drew interest from Nebraska, New Mexico State, UNLV and his former coach Todd Simon at Bowling Green.

Dishon Jackson, C, Washington State

Another big man who heard from BYU coaches early upon entering the transfer portal, Jackson submitted his name about three weeks ago and took a visit to BYU over the weekend, according to Vanquish The Foe. The 6-foot-10, 250-pound center from Oakland, California, started 19 games at Washington State as a junior before a health issue interrupted his Cougar career prior to entering the portal.

Jackson was one of the 15 highest-rated recruits to commit to Washington State, per 247Sports, a four-star prospect out of St. Patrick-St. Vincent in Vallejo, California, who earned All-Pac-12 freshman honorable mention honors while starting 13 games in 2020-21 and averaging 7.2 points, 4.5 rebounds and just under a block per game.

"BYU's pitch is a chance to play in the Big 12 and learn from former NBA player Mark Pope as my head coach," Jackson told VTF, adding he plans to take a visit to Arizona State and make a decision by April 21. "I like the food and the basketball atmosphere and culture they've built over the years. The coaching staff is phenomenal and made sure I was taken care of.

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