Cajuns scoring-leader Bartley's game all about the work

Tim Buckley
The Daily Advertiser
Ragin' Cajuns guard Frank Bartley IV (4) drives the ball against UNO last month.

He went out west for a few years, including a couple seasons at BYU, before making the return trip to Louisiana.

And now that he’s in his second season back, Frank Bartley IV’s game has gone nowhere but up.

The product of Baton Rouge’s Christian Life Academy — best buddy with two other senior leaders, Johnathan Stove and Bryce Washington — is UL’s leading scorer at 16.5 points per game.

He’s started every game he’s played for the Ragin’ Cajuns, something he didn’t do once as a freshman or a sophomore at BYU.

And he’s shooting 37.1 percent from 3-point range, better by far than in any prior college season.

That’s just one big difference-maker for the rockin’-and-rollin’ Ragin’ Cajuns, who at 17-3 overall take seven straight wins and a 7-0 Sun Belt Conference record into Thursday night’s game against South Alabama at the Cajundome.

More:Cajuns earn seventh straight win in rout of Texas State

“He’s really turned into a threat from the 3-point line,” Cajuns coach Bob Marlin said Bartley, a shooting guard who arrived at UL as more of a slasher than a shooter. “A lot of hard work has gone into that, a lot of extra time with coaches and extra time after practice.

“He’s so fast and strong that he’s able to run and get in front of people and get his positioning, and then he’s got such a quick release when he catches it he can get it off in a hurry — be it an out-of-bounds play, a set play or just in transition.”

But, Marlin hastened to add, “His defense is what’s really been impressive to us as coaches, because when he defends and rebounds and is really engaged on that end of the floor we’re a much-better team.”

The Cajuns really do have it going, and Bartley’s a huge factor.

But it took some time away to pull him back.

Desire for a bigger role and being near family were chief among his reasons for leaving BYU, a school and program for which he still has much affinity.

“I wanted to come home, and I felt like this was the perfect spot,” said Bartley, whose father, Frank, played football for the Cajuns.

Related:Bartley, Cajuns flip the script, rally past UTA in SBC battle

Back in Baton Rouge, Bartley has a grandmother battling Alzheimer’s.

He always hoped she could watch him play college ball, but her medical condition hasn’t allowed that.

Still, Bartley takes comfort in knowing he’s nearby.

On the court, Bartley averaged 10.1 minutes per game at BYU. He’s averaged 30.9 over two seasons at UL.

So it all makes sense.

And Bartley’s made the most of his playing time, becoming something others — but not he — might have doubted he could.

“That’s what I envisioned myself when I first came over,” he said of becoming both UL’s scoring leader and an off-the-floor leader.

“I just came in with the mindset that I had to put in some work,” added Bartley who also averaged 15.3 points per game last season and was named the Sun Belt’s Newcomer of the Year. “I mean, I was hungry from not playing as much at BYU.”


Bartley spent his first season out of high school at Future College Prep in California, where he averaged 19.7 ppg — without costing him a season of college eligibility.

He originally committed to Auburn, but ex-Kentucky and NBA player Mark Pope — then a BYU assistant coach — helped steer him to the Cougars in Provo, Utah.

“Coach Pope told me, ‘Don’t commit, don’t sign until you come visit BYU,’” Bartley said. “I said, ‘Alright’ … and I just loved it.

“My family thought it was a good fit. … I felt like it was the right choice for me at the time.”

It was in many ways.

Louisiana’s laissez-les-bons-temps-rouler attitude is as opposite as can be from the conservative ways of many in Utah, especially in Provo.

Yet, Bartley’s upbringing at Christian Life and a year in prep school actually braced him for what he was about to experience at BYU, an institution run by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that puts emphasis on the Mormon religion, learning and clean living.

Related:Cajuns, hot-scorer Bartley back from the Caymans

“That helped me a lot,” he said of his high school background, “because we had kind of the same rules.”

Granted, there were adjustments to be made.

But it proved to be two years Bartley doesn’t regret spending as he did.

“It was way more different (than Louisiana) in terms of learning about the Mormon culture and being so far away from home and being in the snow that much,” he said.

“But it was a great learning experience. I grew up a lot out there. I met some great people out there I still keep in contact with. I have nothing but respect for the coaches out there … nothing but respect for the people.”

That includes Pope, now head coach at Utah Valley State, and BYU head coach Dave Rose.

It includes devoted Cougar fans, too.

“The school had nothing to do with me wanting to leave,” Bartley said.

UL's scoring leader, Frank Bartley IV, goes to the basketball against Appalachian State earlier this month.


Even while away, Bartley stayed in regular touch with Stove, his younger Louisiana Class 1A state-championship teammate at Christian Life.

He said he considers Stove “a little brother.”

When the Cougars were on, Stove would sometimes stay up at night to watch "big-brother" Bartley and BYU play a late TV game on one of the ESPN networks.

“When he told me he was ready to leave,” Stove said, “I was like, ‘Come here.’

“I was begging him to come. … He was (wanting) to weigh all his options, as he should. But I was like, ‘Man, we get to play with each other again.’ I thought that would be the (most fun) thing for us.”

When Washington first watched Bartley on TV, he saw a strong, quick guard.

“Stove told me, ‘Frank’s about to transfer,’” Washington said. “I said … ‘Cool, let’s try to go get him.’ ”

The sales job from both worked.

Related:UL senior Stove accepts a role that can make or break a team

Marlin, meanwhile, spoke with BYU’s Rose, whom he already knew, through the transition period.

“He didn’t want Frank to leave,” Marlin said.

“But (Rose) said … ‘He was dealing with playing time, and he had done a good job for us and wanted to stay, but the way he came in and handled it with me, I think it’s good that he’s leaving, and I feel good that he’s leaving to come to you, because I know how you’ll take care of him.’”

Later, around the time Bartley arrived at UL in 2015, Marlin ran into Pope at a coaching clinic.

“He was telling me he worked with him some,” Marlin said, “and he bragged on Frank and was telling me that he was the kind of guy you need to get one of your coaches to take him to the gym early in the morning (because) he’ll get the work in.

“And that’s what he’s done to make himself into a shooter.”


Before he could play for the Cajuns, however, Bartley sat a season in according with NCAA transfer rules.

But that didn’t stop him from bonding with his new Cajun teammates right away.

Bartley said joining Washington and Stove at UL’s Kappa Alpha Psi chapter “brought us even closer.”

Marlin noticed the off-court chemistry right away.

“They turned into ‘the three amigos’ pretty quick,” he said. “They’re always together at functions on campus, and in their fraternity and with us.”

Marlin liked what he saw on-court during that redshirt year, too.

“Everything was smooth,” he said.

“I didn’t really think he’d be the leading scorer. Especially last year (when Bartley finished as UL’s No. 2 scorer behind then-senior point guard Jay Wright). But watching him in practice, we knew that … we had something special sitting out.”

Related:UL's Broussard finds sacrifice well worth the reward


With four double-digit scorers on the roster last season — Wright, Bartley, Washington and then-freshman Justin Miller — point production wasn’t the only thing Marlin wanted from the transfer.

Defense was another.

At times, it was there; other times, the Cajuns coach suggested, it just wasn’t good enough.

“We’ve been on him,” Marlin said.

“He’s taken some plays off in the past, and last year’s defense wasn’t as important to him.”


“These kids know we have to defend if we’re going to have a chance to win,” Marlin said.

Not just win lots of games, though.

Perhaps a Sun Belt title as well, or even an NCAA Tournament bid.

That’s why Marlin wants to see it on both ends from Bartley.

Column:Too soon to tell if the Cajuns are Marlin's best team ever

And so far, it's been there.

But especially so the offense, with Bartley scoring in double digits in every UL game this season except its season-opening loss at Ole Miss.

That includes 23 points in a New Year’s Eve win at Arkansas State, 22 in an early January win over Coastal Carolina and a season-high 26 in a road win last Thursday at SBC preseason favorite Texas-Arlington.

“It makes us a dangerous team when we can get Frank going,” Marlin said of Bartley, whose career high of 31 came last February at Georgia State.

Having been exposed to him last season, Sun Belt opponents are trying different things this time around.

But against a talent-loaded team — Washington, Stove, Miller, Missouri-transfer JaKeenan Gant, South Carolina-transfer Marcus Stroman and Southern Cal-transfer Malik Marquetti among the bunch — it doesn’t always work.

More:Cajuns have plenty of options with Marquetti, Stove

“They’re trying to faceguard; they’re being more physical; they’re trying to deny some passes,” Bartley said. “They’re doing different things to try to keep the ball out of my hands.

“But a testament to my team is we’ve got so many guys who can do so many different things. They’ve got to respect those guys. So it’s easy for me to get an open shot. I’ve just got to do the work and get open.”

And if there’s one thing Bartley has done lots of this season, besides score, it’s toil without trouble.

“When I first came (to UL) … I had to be that ‘mature’ guy,” he said, “and I just have been putting in the work to set myself up for success — and it’s finally showing.”

More:Missouri-transfer Gant one of many UL scoring options

UL (17-3, 7-0 in the Sun Belt) vs. SOUTH ALABAMA (11-9, 4-3)

WHEN: 7:15 p.m. Thursday

WHERE: Cajundome

TV: None

INTERNET: RaginCajuns.com with Dan McDonald

RADIO: KHXT 107.9 FM, KPEL 1420 AM with Jay Walker

UL LEADERS: Frank Bartley IV, 16.5 points per game; JaKeenan Gant, 14.8 points, 6.5 rebounds per game and 2.2 blocks per game; Bryce Washington, 10.3 ppg, 10.7 rpg; Marcus Stroman, 6.1 assists per game

Related:New UL point guard Stroman says 'Now I just get to grow up'