When Matt Haarms revealed his three finalists earlier this week, it looked every bit the showdown between the best recruiter in the country and arguably the best coach in the country.
But 7-foot-3 hard-playing grad transfer from Purdue pulled the ultimate shocker and opted to play his final year at BYU next season instead of at Kentucky or Texas Tech.
“It just came down to my overall feeling about (Mark) Pope and the coaching staff,” said the native of the Netherlands. “It was so many things, but the pieces were all there for me.”
“I trusted Coach Pope,” he added. “That’s not to say I didn’t trust the other coaches, but I think he had the best plan in place for me to succeed.”
Kentucky doesn’t have a legit big man on its roster. John Calipari, considered the best recruiter in the country over the past decade or so, lost Nick Richards and E.J. Montgomery early to the NBA Draft.
Texas Tech, a program that went to the Elite Eight in 2018 and lost to Virginia in the national title game a year ago, was also desperate for a big man. Chris Beard has put two grad transfers – Matt Mooney and Tariq Owens – in the NBA.
But Haarms, who saw his production diminish this past season and left Purdue in search of an opportunity for an increased role, spurned two of the current giants in college basketball to head to Provo.
And it makes some sense.
Besides the fact that Haarms connected with Pope, he’ll also be coached by a legitimate big man who played in the NBA.
“That was important to me,” Haarms said. “He’s played the position and done it at the highest level. He told me he stuck around the league longer than he should have, so I’m hoping he can help me get there.”
Haarms, 23, said that not being able to visit campuses and also having no relationship with Pope, Calipari or Beard prior to the past month wasn’t a hindrance at all.
“You’re asking the wrong guy that question,” Haarms said. “That’s a better question for a high school recruit. I’m 23 years old and looking to have one year at a place. I don’t care how nice the locker room is or anything like that. Those things I valued coming out of high school don’t really mean much to me anymore. I got all the info I needed from those zoom calls. I wasn’t lacking any info and I really enjoyed the process. We got right down to the facts.”