LOGAN, Utah – Utah State men’s basketball will hold its first official practice of the 2018-19 season on Tuesday afternoon, leading up to its season opener at Montana State on Tuesday, Nov. 6. Fans will be able to see the team in action during Aggie Madness on Thursday, Oct. 11, on Kirby Court at the Wayne Estes Center, and then again when the Aggies host Evergreen State College in an exhibition on Thursday, Nov. 1.
Utah State will enter the year under the direction of first-year head coach Craig Smith. Smith was hired in March, joining the Aggies after a successful four-year run at the University of South Dakota. Smith led the Coyotes to back-to-back postseason appearances each of the past two seasons, along with a conference championship during the 2016-17 season.
“I feel like a kid on Christmas right now,” Smith said. “Our guys have already been working hard putting hours in the gym and in the weight room. I don’t think anything changes with the first day of practice, but it gives our guys that extra bit of something, knowing that the season is right around the corner.”
The Aggies return seven letterwinners and four starters from a squad that finished 17-17 last season and advanced to the semifinals of the Mountain West Tournament for the first time in program history.
Headlining the returners is all-Mountain West guard Sam Merrill, who led the team in scoring with 16.3 points per game. He also finished second all-time in a single season in USU history with 98 3-point field goals. Senior forwards Quinn Taylor and Dwayne Brown Jr., are also in the mix of returning starters as Brown finished second on the team with 5.0 rebounds per game, and Taylor led the Aggies on the offensive glass with 154. Junior guard Diogo Brito appeared in every game for USU last season, including 23 starts and saw his averages increase significantly from his freshman year, averaging 6.0 points, 3.5 rebounds and 0.8 steals per game.
Other returning letterwinners for the Aggies include sophomore guards Abel Porter and Crew Ainge, who appeared in 23 and 16 games, respectively, for Utah State last season. Porter was the starting point guard for the team during a four-game stretch in November. Sophomore center Klay Stall appeared in 10 games during the 2017-18 season before being sidelined with back issues and is anticipated to miss time in 2018-19 after suffering a knee injury in the offseason.
Utah State will have a pair of redshirts set to contribute in 2018-19 in freshman guard Brock Miller and freshman forward Justin Bean. Miller appeared in five games for USU last year, including a 15-point effort at Portland State, but his season came to an end following the game because of a foot injury.
The 2018-19 roster includes five newcomers, including two junior college transfers in junior forward Roche Grootfaam and sophomore guard John Knight III, and three freshmen in guard Tauriawn Knight, forward Ben Fakira and center Neemias Queta.
Utah State men’s basketball news and information is available on Facebook (facebook.com/usumensbasketball), on Twitter (@usubasketball) and on Instagram (@usubasketball). Fans can also get USU men’s basketball highlights on YouTube (youtube.com/utahstateathletics). Aggie fans can follow the Utah State athletic program on Twitter (@usuathletics), on Facebook (facebook.com/usuathletics) or on Instagram (@usuathletics).