After flirting with Kentucky, Richie Saunders announces return to BYU

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PROVO — The Headband is coming back to BYU.

A week after entering the NCAA transfer portal and citing the "uncertainty of the coaching situation," BYU guard Richie Saunders unveiled his commitment to to the program and new head coach Kevin Young on social media.

The 6-foot-5 guard from Riverton who prepped at Wasatch Academy was one of the Cougars' top reserves last year, averaging 9.6 points, 4.1 rebounds and 1.1 assists in 20.7 minutes per game in helping BYU to a fifth-place finish in the Big 12 and an NCAA Tournament berth.

But when former head coach Mark Pope accepted the same position at his alma mater Kentucky, Saunders wasn't so sure about his spot on the roster. He put his name in the portal, joined a phone call when the Cougars quickly hired Young from the Phoenix Suns, but then hit the road to visit his old coach and the Wildcats last week.

Rumors started to swirl — and when former four-star recruit Collin Chandler opted out of his national letter of intent to follow Pope to Lexington following his two-year mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, why wouldn't they? — and Saunders didn't return many phone calls or text messages.

But arguably the most interesting man on the BYU roster had a plan, or at least a decision to make. And by Thursday night, he made that decision public.

Like senior-to-be Trevin Knell before him, Saunders was all in on Young and the Cougars.

He joins Knell and Noah Waterman to openly re-commit to the program under Young, who is finishing out the NBA playoffs as associate head coach of the Suns but continues to be available as he assembles his staff and hits the transfer portal and recruiting trail.

Young hasn't been idle. Since accepting the job, he received a commitment from four-star Corner Canyon product Brody Kozlowski. But his most important job, by his own admission, was keeping the roster together.

Big 12 sixth man of the year Jaxson Robinson declare for the NBA draft, but that was expected. When Knell opted in to his new coach, a wind of change — or at least a slight breeze — spread through the program.

Now Saunders joins the list, only a day after rising senior center Atiki Ally Atiki entered the transfer portal and formally welcomed former Stanford assistant Brandon Dunson as the program's first assistant coach under Young.

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