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Commentary: Looks like BYU can recruit in the West Coast Conference after all

Published: Tuesday, June 30 2015 3:45 p.m. MDT

Brigham Young Cougars coach Dave Rose smiles during a media interview prior to their NIT Final Four game in New York City   Monday, April 1, 2013.  (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News) Brigham Young Cougars coach Dave Rose smiles during a media interview prior to their NIT Final Four game in New York City Monday, April 1, 2013. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

BYU basketball wrapped up its solid 2014 recruiting class on Wednesday with Payton Dastrup deciding to go with the Cougars over Ohio State after all. In the last two years, the Cougars have picked up four members of the ESPN100.

And the Cougars pulled this off as a member of the West Coast Conference.

We heard all the doom and gloom. Would players want to play in a conference that has an average arena capacity of 4,740, not including the Marriott Center? Could BYU even maintain its recruiting profile when the Cougars have to play small-time teams like Pepperdine and Portland?

Most troubling of all, some suggested that BYU would permanently lose the recruiting battle with arch-rival Utah because of the Utes' affiliation with the Pac-12.

After two solid recruiting classes, it's clear that all the fear and negativity toward joining the WCC was unfounded.

Brigham Young's Eric Mika, left and Stanford's Anthony Brown watch a loose ball during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Monday, Nov. 11, 2013, in Stanford, Calif.  (AP Photo/George Nikitin) (George Nikitin, AP) Brigham Young's Eric Mika, left and Stanford's Anthony Brown watch a loose ball during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Monday, Nov. 11, 2013, in Stanford, Calif. (AP Photo/George Nikitin) (George Nikitin, AP)

Did anyone notice that Gonzaga has been a national power for years while being a member of the WCC? The Zags have five Sweet 16 appearances and a trip to the Elite Eight since the 1998-99 season.

BYU's coaches and administration apparently paid close attention to Gonzaga's formula for success. Namely, BYU needed to put together a difficult non-conference slate to help gain national notoriety as well as offset conference games against bad RPI teams.

Since joining the WCC, BYU has played teams like Wisconsin, Oregon, Baylor, Florida State, Notre Dame, Iowa State and Virginia Tech. This season, the Cougars have already played Stanford and have Iowa State, Texas, either Wichita State or DePaul, UMass and Oregon still on the schedule before league play begins. Plus, BYU will play in the 2014 Maui Invitational with teams like Kansas State, Arizona, Missouri, Pitt, Purdue and SDSU.

That's a good slate of teams.

Lone Peak's T.J.  Haws celebrates a threw pointer against Alta during the 5A State Championship game in Ogden  Saturday, March 2, 2013.  (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News) Lone Peak's T.J. Haws celebrates a threw pointer against Alta during the 5A State Championship game in Ogden Saturday, March 2, 2013. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

Of course, it helps to have a high school basketball powerhouse right in BYU's backyard named Lone Peak. Several of BYU's top recruits in recent years, such as T.J. Haws, Nick Emery and Eric Mika, came from Lone Peak. These in-state superstars could have gone to Utah or any number of Pac-12 teams if big-time conference affiliation was the deciding factor.

They didn't. While Utah did pick up Brekkott Chapman from Roy, BYU is six spots ahead of the Utes in the ESPN 2014 recruiting rankings.

What's more, Dave Rose is also bringing in big-time out-of-state recruits like Jake Toolson and now Dastrup from Arizona. Even Chicago native Jabari Parker considered BYU before ultimately committing to Duke.

No, this doesn't mean that BYU's suddenly a top destination like UCLA, Michigan State, Duke or North Carolina. However, what this does mean is that BYU's WCC affiliation is not the handicap that some made it out to be.

Maybe one day BYU will be invited to join a power conference. While that would be nice, athletic director Tom Holmoe and Rose are doing just fine in the WCC. Instead of sitting next to the phone and hoping for a call, BYU has made the most of its move to the WCC.

Now it has the recruits to prove it.

Lafe Peavler is a sportswriter intern at the Deseret News.

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