With the emergence of the BYU bench, is Trevin Knell a long-term starter?

Knell sees himself as a starter, but tries not to focus on “the bad stuff”.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Brigham Young Cougars guard Trevin Knell (21) tries to shoot around Gonzaga Bulldogs forward Corey Kispert (24), during basketball action from the West Coast Conference between the Brigham Young Cougars and the Gonzaga Bulldogs at the Marriott Center in Provo on Monday, February 8, 2021.

Province • Shortly after BYU’s 13-point win over Portland last week, head coach Mark Pope sat on the podium and went over nearly every player on the stat sheet.

He started with Seneca Knight, coming off arguably his best week in a BYU uniform. He then brought up Gideon George and Spencer Johnson, two other bench players who have seen more and more minutes of late.

But as Pope ran through the list, there was a pause and one notable omission. Trevin Knell didn’t make the cut. The starter – who had a zero offensive rating against Portland – has seen his minutes increasingly reduced over the past two weeks. It’s a byproduct of players like Knight, George and Johnson racking up more minutes.

This begs the question, is Knell a long term starter on this team? Or could it be replaced?

“I feel like everyone cares,” Knell told the Salt Lake Tribune. “Something I try to [improve on] it’s putting my personal agenda aside. Seeing guys like Gideon and Senaca playing really well right now is awesome. I like these guys. I have excellent relations with both.

“But I’m super confident. I spoke to the coaches and they have great confidence in me. I feel like a huge asset.

Knell feels like he’s in the right role. But he readily admits that over the past few weeks he has focused on “the bad stuff”.

That’s why Pope shouted in training on Tuesday that Knell’s defensive numbers have been ‘killing’ the team since early January. By Knell’s own self-assessment, he emphasizes attack and sacrifices defense.

And while his defense was poor, his attack also slipped. He hasn’t scored in double figures since January 6. Against Portland, Knell was involved in just 7% of the team’s possessions, tied for the lowest this season before entering the starting lineup. Knell has apparently disappeared from large parts of the game.

“He’s had a really, really tough series of defensive matchups over the last two weeks,” Pope said of Knell’s play.

While the matchups may have been bad for Knell, productivity from the bench also factored in.

Notably, Knight scored 14 points off the bench in both games last week. He gobbled up rebounds and was involved in 38% of the team’s possessions. He played more minutes than Knell on Thursday and matched him on Saturday.

Johnson and George also played well. George had 10 points off the bench in 27 minutes last Thursday. And for his part, Johnson continues to consistently play 20 minutes and act like a pseudo-starter.

“I’m just trying to fill in the blanks,” Knight said of how he sees his role evolving. “Whether it’s scoring, defending, rebounding, anything I can do to help this team win, I’m ready to do it.”

Johnson added a similar sentiment when asked about his role, saying he was BYU’s “do it all” guy.

But the more the trio plays, the less Knell is on the ground. He hasn’t played more than five straight minutes against Portland and only played 12 minutes against San Diego last week.

At this time, it doesn’t look like BYU is replacing Knell in the starting lineup. After practice, Pope came over to the junior as he stretched to talk for around 10 minutes.

They discussed the challenge ahead. When BYU takes on Santa Clara this week, Knell will have to keep another player both bigger and stronger than him. He will start, but Pope wants more “urgency” from a player who has integrated.

“I can’t just be out there as a body,” Knell said. “I think Pope wants to see more upside in me. I want to show that I take it more personally and have more upside in my game.”

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