Kevin Young deep in BYU recruiting, loves what former Ute Keba Keita brings

New BYU Cougars men's basketball coach Kevin Young speaks at his introductory press conference on Wednesday, April 17, 2024, at the Marriott Center in Provo, Utah.
New BYU Cougars men's basketball coach Kevin Young speaks at his introductory press conference on Wednesday, April 17, 2024, at the Marriott Center in Provo, Utah. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

The signing of Utah transfer rim roller Keba Keita checked an important box for new BYU coach Kevin Young.

Young told “BYU Sports Nation” on Friday that in the system he envisions, he needs a vertical, athletic rim defender who can deliver off the pick-and-roll and force defenders to worry about his athleticism.

Keita’s presence will enable BYU’s outside shooting attack to keep the entire attack loosened up.

Young’s availability to the media outside of campus studios has been limited due to his work with the Phoenix Suns, recruiting, retention of current roster players and hiring a staff. The piece with BYUtv was a first.

It was his first chance to explain the Keita signing.

“I mean, just, he is big time, just based on how we want to play,” said Young. “I’ve talked about it several different times, having that rim pressure, as I call it. He’s a vertical athlete but one of the best in the country, so offensively it kind of unlocked some things in how we want to play and then defensively, his rim protection.

“He’s just a powerful athlete. Something that we wanted to add here with the returners is just athleticism. Keita is a big, strong guy, a beautiful, beautiful human being as well, so we felt like it was a real seamless fit.”

Earlier, Young’s assistant coach Chris Burgess told how Keita’s skills would enhance what BYU will try to do with its offense and defense in 2024.

“(Keita) is the best athlete on the floor, no matter who plays,” said Burgess. “He is a rim runner, a rim protector and a lob threat. With coach Young, we’re going to play five out, so you have to have a rim roller and put pressure on the rim. Keba knows how to do that.”

Young believes he can direct, coach and unlock more of what Keita achieved as an emerging raw talent his first two seasons at Utah.

Said Burgess of Keita, “He’s going to put so much pressure on the big man, no matter what their coverage is in screen and roll; he’s going to put so much pressure in transition. We’re going to run fast because he is the fastest five-man out there rim-to-rim. Then he’s one of the best offensive rebounders. It’s just so hard to keep him off the glass.”

Young said his staff is still looking to add to the roster, and with Keita on board, BYU is looking for an athletic combo guard who can create his own shot and defend.

Young will take another big man if he can add “versatility” to the post position — give a different look for a defense. He’ll take a few more if needed and available.

The ever-changing college sports world of NIL and the transfer portal is something Young says is challenging because things seem to not only change from day to day but by the hour.

He’s glad he has former Utah assistant Burgess and former Stanford assistant Brandon Dunson on board and working relentlessly not only for help now but the Class of 2025.

BYU has reached out to a myriad of portal prospects who have chosen other teams.

They include Duke’s TJ Power, who will go to Virginia; Arkansas guard Davonte Davis, who heads to Oklahoma State; Hawaii 7-1 center Mor Seck, who signed with Fresno State; Cal Irvine guard Carter Welling, who will join his brother Hayden at Utah Valley; San Francisco guard Mike Sharavjamts, who doesn’t list the Cougars in his final top three (Utah, Saint Mary’s and Illinois), and Texas A&M Commerce guard Jerome Brewer, who signed with McNeese State, to name a few.

Players are looking for playing time and NIL. BYU appears to be set with potential starters and a newcomer would need to challenge that or accept a role. There’s always the possibility that Jaxson Robinson could return if he takes his name out of the NBA draft.

With the transfer portal significantly picked over at this stage of recruiting, don’t be surprised if Young’s staff works the international player lists in Europe and South America for one or two players.

Young said he will hire three more assistant coaches and will hire some support staff members. These, he said, could be from his contacts in the NBA because he wants that influence on what he wants to develop at BYU.

The new coach said he is excited that he has so many returning players like Dallin Hall, Richie Saunders, Fouss Traore, Noah Waterman and Trevin Knell back because they know the program, the system, have chemistry and have spent a year in the Big 12.

Young listed the key traits he likes in the returners as shooting skills, their basketball IQ and experience.

In what he called an “insane” time straddling his job with the Suns and BYU, his focus right now, even before moving his family, is completing the staff and recruiting, not necessarily in that order.

Utah Utes center Keba Keita (13) shoots the ball past Iowa forward Ladji Dembele during NIT game at the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City on Sunday, March 24, 2024. Keita entered the transfer portal and committed to BYU earlier this week. | Marielle Scott, Deseret News