Aggie men once again picked to repeat as WAC champions

LOGAN, Utah – For the second year in a row, Utah State’s men’s basketball team is the overwhelming favorite to win the Western Athletic Conference according to both the league’s coaches and media, while senior forward Tai Wesley was tabbed as the coaches preseason Player of the Year, it was announced by the league office Tuesday. Utah State, who has won three-straight regular season WAC titles, received eight first-place votes and 64 points in the coaches poll, while New Mexico State received one first-place vote and 55 points. Nevada received 47 points and was picked to finish third, followed by Boise State (36), Fresno State (36), San Jose State (32), Louisiana Tech (24), Idaho (19) and Hawai’i (11). In the media poll, Utah State garnered 19 first-place votes and 259 points, while New Mexico State was second with 237 points and eight first-place votes. Nevada, who received 190 points and two first-place votes was picked third, while San Jose State received 135 points and one first-place vote and was picked to finish fourth. Fresno State was picked fifth (133), followed by Boise State (129), Louisiana Tech (116), Idaho (78) and Hawai’i (73). “Preseason polls are pretty much a reflection on how your team has done in the past and the fact that you might have some experience returning,” said USU head coach Stew Morrill. “We’ve gotten used to high expectations at Utah State and our players have dealt with those expectations pretty well through the years. I think it’s always a compliment when the coaches and the media recognize your program by picking you to win the league.” Along with being named the preseason Player of the Year by the coaches, Wesley was also named to the league’s first-team by both the coaches and media. Joining Wesley on the WAC’s preseason teams were senior forward Nate Bendall and senior guards Tyler Newbold and Pooh Williams who were all named to the second-team as voted on by the coaches. Junior college transfer Brockeith Pane was also recognized by the media as he was picked as the WAC’s Newcomer of the Year. “Having our players recognized is always positive, but again it’s a reflection on last year’s team winning the conference and us having a lot of experience back. I hope our players can be determined to make all the preseason recognition come true,” added Morrill. Overall, Utah State returns four starters and eight letterwinners from last year’s team that advanced to its 19th NCAA Tournament all-time, including its seventh in the last 11 years under Morrill as it lost to Texas A&M, 69-53, in the first round. USU finished the 2009-10 season with a 27-8 record and went 14-2 in WAC play to claim its third-straight regular season league championship, which is a school record. Over the last three years, USU has a combined record of 81-24 (.771) including a 40-8 (.833) WAC mark. Leading the way for Utah State during the 2010-11 season will be Wesley who earned first-team all-WAC honors as a junior as he finished the year ranking fourth in the conference and 12th in the nation in shooting at 57.4 percent. He also ranked fifth in the league in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.86), sixth in blocked shots (1.31), 10th in rebounding (6.6), 11th in assists (3.34), 13th in scoring (13.7) and 15th in free throw shooting (.701). Wesley was also named to the WAC’s all-tournament team in 2010, along with receiving first-team all-league honors from both Sporting News and NetScouts Basketball, as well as second-team all-district honors from the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC). Bendall was named to the WAC’s all-newcomer team in 2010 as he finished the year averaging 10.3 points and 5.3 rebounds, while ranking seventh in the league in field goal shooting (.562), eighth in free throw shooting (.815) and 11th in blocked shots (0.88). Newbold finished the year averaging 8.0 points, 4.0 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game, while ranking fifth in the WAC in three-point shooting at 42.1 percent. He also shot 44.4 percent from the field and 88.1 percent at the free throw line during the season. Williams became the first Aggie ever named to the WAC’s all-defensive team in 2010 and he finished the year averaging 8.7 points, 2.2 assists and 1.8 rebounds per game, while shooting 44.6 percent from the field, 35.6 percent from three-point range and 54.7 percent at the free throw line. Along with being named to the league’s all-defensive team, he was also named the WAC’s Defensive Player of the Year by Sporting News. USU’s four other returning lettermen are senior forward Matt Formisano, senior guard Brian Green, junior forward Brady Jardine and sophomore guard Preston Medlin. In all, Utah State’s four returning starters have a combined 353 games played while at USU including 288 starts, while its four other returnees have a total of 195 games played at USU. Joining Utah State’s eight returnees are two redshirts in junior forward Morgan Grim and freshman forward Brad Brown, and six newcomers in junior guards Antonio Bumpus and Pane, sophomore guard E.J. Farris, freshman forward Ben Clifford, and freshmen guards Leon Cooper, Jr., and James Walker III. Utah State will hold its annual Blue-White Scrimmage on Wednesday, Oct. 27 at 7 p.m., and its first exhibition game will be on Saturday, Oct. 30 against Universite Laval at 7 p.m. USU will then play its final exhibition game on Friday, Nov. 5 against Grand Canyon at 7 p.m. before beginning the regular season at home against Weber State on Saturday, Nov. 13 at 7 p.m. Season tickets are available through USU’s website at or by calling the ticket office toll free at 1-888-USTATE-1 ore (435) 797-0305. 2010-11 WAC Preseason Coaches PollRk. Team Pts.1. UTAH STATE (8) 642. New Mexico State (1) 553 Nevada 474. Boise State 365. Fresno State 366. San Jose State 327. Louisiana Tech 248. Idaho 199. Hawai’i 11 2010-11 WAC Preseason Media PollRk. Team Pts.1. UTAH STATE (19) 2592. New Mexico State (8) 2373 Nevada (2) 1904. San Jose State (1) 1355. Fresno State 1336. Boise State 1297. Louisiana Tech 1168. Idaho 789. Hawai’i 73 2010-11 Preseason Coaches All-WAC TeamsFirst-TeamTroy Gillenwater, Jr., F, New Mexico StateWendell McKines, Sr., F, New Mexico StateAdrian Oliver, Sr., G, San Jose StateGreg Smith, So., C, Fresno StateTai Wesley, Sr., F, Utah State Second-TeamOlu Ashaolu, Jr., F, Louisiana TechNate Bendall, Sr., F, Utah StateDaequon Montreal, Sr, F, Boise StateTyler Newbold, Sr., G, Utah StatePooh Williams, Sr., G/F, Utah State Preseason Player of the Year: Tai Wesley, Sr., F, Utah State 2010-11 Preseason Media All-WAC TeamFirst-TeamTroy Gillenwater, Jr., F, New Mexico StateWendell McKines, Sr., F, New Mexico StateAdrian Oliver, Sr., G, San Jose StateGreg Smith, So., C, Fresno StateTai Wesley, Sr., F, Utah State Preseason Player of the Year: Adrian Oliver, Sr., G, San Jose StateNewcomer of the Year: Brockeith Pane, Jr., G, Utah State -USU-

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