USU men’s basketball first practice officially in the books

LOGAN, Utah – Utah State men’s basketball held its first official practice on Tuesday afternoon as the 2018-19 Aggies spent just over two hours on the court inside the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum under first-year head coach Craig Smith and his staff.

“Coach Smith is a high-energy guy. He is always amped up and that type of energy is contagious to us as players,” senior forward Quinn Taylor said. “We are going to come in and try to match that energy. We’ve had a great summer and our workouts have all been great. Everyone is liking the direction we are going and having fun, and that’s the biggest part.”

Taylor is one of seven returning letterwinners for the Aggies, as the group finished the 2017-18 season with an overall mark of 17-17 and advanced to the semifinals of the Mountain West Tournament for the first time in program history. Taylor is also one of just four returners with significant Division I experience, joining all-Mountain West junior guard Sam Merrill, senior forward Dwayne Brown Jr., and junior guard Diogo Brito. Taylor is the only member of the that quartet that didn’t appear in every game last season, missing one, but each will be expected to provide leadership going into the 2018-19 season.

We really only have four guys with any kind of Division I basketball playing experience and we’ll be leaning on those guys heavily,” Smith said. “I’m really excited to see who is going to step up. Every guy on our roster has made significant improvement in the last five months.”

Utah State returns a trio of guards that saw action in games last season in sophomores Abel Porter and Crew Ainge, and redshirt freshman Brock Miller. Porter appeared in 23 games a year ago, while Ainge played in 16, averaging 7.4 and 6.9 minutes per game, respectively. Miller played in each of the first five games last year and scored a season-high 15 points at Portland State before his season was cut short because of a foot injury.

Injuries also played a part in sophomore forward Klay Stall missing most of the 2017-18 season, as he appeared in just 10 games before being sidelined with a back issue. Stall was dealt another blow just a few weeks ago as he injured his knee during workouts and is anticipated to miss the majority of the 2018-19 season.

Utah State welcomes five newcomers in a pair of junior college transfers (Roche Grootfaam and John Knight III) and a trio of freshmen (Tauriawn Knight, Ben Fakira and Neemias Queta).

“We need to be able to maintain steadiness and have guys that show up every day,” Smith said. “We need to know as coaches and as teammates what we are going to get out of every guy. I have a feeling we are going to be a team that will do things by committee. We just need to continue to get better.”

Having the first day of official practice has put the Aggies on the path of getting better as the team looks ahead to its season opener at Montana State on Tuesday, Nov. 6. Fans will be able to get a sneak peek at the team during Aggie Madness, set for Thursday, Oct. 11, inside the Wayne Estes Center. Utah State will then host an exhibition game on Thursday, Nov. 1, facing Evergreen State College inside the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum at 7 p.m.

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).

AUDIO: Al Lewis interview with Coach Craig Smith

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