<strong>LOGAN, Utah -</strong> Utah State’s men’s basketball team conducted its first official practice of the 2012-13 season Friday night as 15 players participated in the two hour and 30 minute workout in the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum.
Among the group were five returning lettermen, including three starters, back from last year’s team that finished the season with a 21-16 record, advancing to the championship game of the <a href=”http://CollegeInsider.com/”>CollegeInsider.com</a> Tournament (CIT).
“It comes up pretty quick. The great thing about NCAA rules is that for the last few years we’ve been able to work with our players for a couple hours a week, so at least you’ve had some contact over the last three or four weeks. That has been really valuable for us,” said USU head coach Stew Morrill, who is entering his 15th season at USU and 27th overall as a Division I head coach.
Friday’s practice was the Aggies’ first as they prepare for the 2012-113 season, which will be their eighth and final season in the Western Athletic Conference, before moving to the Mountain West Conference next season.
“The first day of practice is always an exciting time. If you’re not excited about this in coaching, something’s wrong with you. Even though it’s my 27th year as a head coach, 15th year at Utah State, I still have the butterflies and am still anxious to see where we’re at,” Morrill said.
In addition to the five returning lettermen, Morrill and the Aggies have two redshirts and eight newcomers on the 2012-13 roster.
“I’d have to just start listing them all because you just don’t know yet. Until you get into official practice and start trying to figure out who can do what, you just have hopes and expectations,” said Morrill about any newcomers to keep an eye on early. “We have some size which we didn’t have as much of last year. Jarred Shaw is a redshirt transfer from Oklahoma State who gives us some size, and of course Jordan Stone is better and improved in his second year. We’ve got Matt (Lopez) who’s also a big inside kid. We’re new at a lot of positions. We’re new at the five-position, new at the point guard, we’ve got new wings who are expected to help – just a whole lot of new players. Until we get some practice under our belt, it’s hard to say who will fit where.”
One of the returners is junior guard Preston Medlin, who is entering his fourth year with the team after redshirting the 2010-11 season.
“I’m the guy who’s been here the longest. This is my fourth year compared to everyone else, Ben (Clifford) is the closest with three years. I know what teams in the past have done to make them good and I’m trying to do the same things with this team,” Medlin said.
Forward Kyisean Reed is the lone senior on the Aggies’ squad, which includes seven juniors, but Medlin is just one of three that were with the team last year, as four players came to USU from the junior college ranks. In addition to three sophomores, the Aggies also have four freshmen on the roster.
“It brings new energy. Today is a really big learning day. There are a lot of new things with the offenses and defenses that we learned today. Sometimes guys struggle with that, sometimes they learn it really easily. We’ll see how it goes as the week goes along,” Medlin said.
Two of the eight newcomers are guard Marcel Davis and forward Quincy Bair, who are both from American Fork, Utah and were high school teammates at American Fork High School.
“Quincy Bair and Marcel Davis are both out of American Fork. They’re good players and good kids, but they’re freshmen. It’s a big jump from high school basketball to Division I. I think they’re adapting well and will give us some athleticism. We’re excited about their futures,” Morrill said.
The Aggies future is focused on extending their current school records for consecutive 20-win seasons and postseason appearances to 13-straight in 2012 as they are one of just five schools nationally to win 21 games in each of the last 13 years along with Duke, Gonzaga, Kansas and Syracuse. Furthermore, Utah State’s current run of 13-straight postseason appearances is tied for the 11th-longest active streak in the nation.
USU enters its eighth and final year in the Western Athletic Conference, as the Aggies have amassed a 178-65 (.732) overall record, including 83-27 (.755) in WAC games, going 8-6 last season, finishing fourth.
In his 14 years as the Aggies’ head coach, Morrill has led USU to an incredible 345-119 (.744) record, including a 175-55 (.761) conference ledger in Big West and WAC action. While at Utah State, he has guided the Aggies to 13 straight 21-win seasons and 13 straight postseason appearances (8-NCAA, 4-NIT, 1-CIT), both of which are school records. Morrill is the winningest coach in school history and ranks first all-time in games coached (464). Morrill is also the second-longest tenured coach in school history behind E. Lowell Romney (1920-41) who spent 22 years coaching basketball.
Headlining the USU returners is Medlin, who averaged 17.0 points per game to go with 4.4 rebounds and 3.4 assists per contest, and was named first-team all-WAC in 2012, marking the 13th-straight year that Utah State has had at least one player earn first-team all-conference honors. For Medlin, he was just the second sophomore in school history to earn first-team all-league honors along with Nate Harris (2004).
Medlin started all 37 games for the Aggies, setting a school record for games started and games played, and finished the season shooting 49.6 percent from the field (204-of-411), 42.8 percent from three-point range (95-of-222) and 80.1 percent at the free throw line (125-of-156). Medlin scored in double-figures 31 times, including 20-plus points 13 times, and a career-high 32 points against Idaho. He finished the year ranking second in the WAC and 16th in the nation in three-point shooting, third in the WAC and 80th in the nation in points per game, and 10th in the WAC and 75th in the nation in overall shooting. Medlin also ranked fourth in the league in free throw shooting, seventh in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.70) and ninth in assists.
Utah State’s most experienced position heading into the 2012-13 season will be at power forward as it returns two proven players here from a year ago in senior starter Kyisean Reed and sophomore reserve Ben Clifford. Reed, who is perhaps the most athletic post-player in the WAC, was named to the league’s all-newcomer team a year ago as he averaged 10.0 points, 5.1 rebounds and 1.1 blocked shots per game, while shooting 61.4 percent from the field (135-of-220) and 67.9 percent at the free throw line (91-of-134). He finished the season ranking first in the WAC in field goal shooting, sixth in blocked shots and 14th and rebounding, and had an eye-popping 40 dunks to also rank first in the conference.
After redshirting his first year at Utah State, Clifford played in 36 games, starting four, in 2012 and finished the season averaging 4.4 points and 3.5 rebounds, while shooting 50.9 percent from the field (58-of-114), 38.9 percent from three-point range (7-of-18) and 72.9 percent at the free throw line (35-of-48) in 16.8 minutes per outing.
In addition to Medlin and Reed, the Aggies also have a third returning starter back in junior Danny Berger, who can play both forward positions. Last season Berger sat out the first six games of the year as a potential redshirt, but then started in 25 of 31 games played. Berger netted double-digit points 10 times last season, including three of the final six games, highlighted by tying a school record with five three-pointers in a postseason game as part of his career-high tying 17 points in <a href=”http://CollegeInsiders.com/”>CollegeInsiders.com</a> Tournament semifinal win over Oakland. Berger finished the year with a 6.6 points, 3.4 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game average, while shooting 37.2 percent from the field (64-of-172) and 36.7 percent from three-point range (36-of-98) to go with a 76.9 percent free throw shooting (40-of-52).
The fifth returning Aggie letterman is sophomore center Jordan Stone, who both gained valuable playing time as a freshman last year and is expected to pick up where he left off in his progress from a season ago, as Stone saw action in 31 games. He tallied 2.1 points and 2.5 rebounds per contest, and both were solid defenders in the post for USU.
Joining Utah State’s five returning lettermen are two redshirts, junior center Jarred Shaw and sophomore center Matt Lopez, as well as eight newcomers. The newcomers are evenly split of four junior college players in junior forward/guard Spencer Butterfield, junior forwards Sean Harris and Marvin Jean along with junior guard TeNale Roland, and a four-player freshman class consisting of forwards Quincy Bair and Quinn Taylor, along with guards Riley Bradshaw and Marcel Davis.
The Aggies open the 2012-13 season on Friday, Oct. 26 in an exhibition game against Grand Canyon at 7 p.m. USU will host Simon Fraser in an exhibition game on Saturday, Nov. 3 at 7 p.m., before kicking off the regular-season schedule by hosting Idaho State on Saturday, Nov. 10 at 7 p.m. USU opens the season with four-straight home games at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum.
Utah State men’s basketball season tickets for the 2012-13 season are now on sale at the USU Ticket Office.
Ticket prices are $230 in non-priority areas and $220 in priority areas, which have Big Blue Scholarship Fund per seat commitment fees apply, ranging from $100-$900 per seat in addition to ticket cost.
Family Plans are also available for purchase at $800 (two adults and three Jr Aggies). Please be aware that there is a limit of one Family Plan per household.
Tickets can be purchased online by clicking on the “Buy Tickets” tab at <a href=”http://www.UtahStateAggies.com/”>www.UtahStateAggies.com</a>, over the phone by calling 1-888-USTATE1 or (435) 797-0305, or in person at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum Ticket Office during regular hours of operation.
Fans can follow the Aggie men’s basketball program at <a href=”http://twitter.com/AggieHoops”>twitter.com/AggieHoops</a>. USU fans can also follow the Utah State athletic program at <a href=”http://twitter.com/USUAthletics”>twitter.com/USUAthletics</a> or on facebook at Utah State University Athletics.