LOGAN, Utah – A minute before each game tips off in the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum, the crowd becomes electrified with the familiar sounds of “I believe that we will win.” The chant that involves the entire student section is designed to pump up the home crowd and team, while putting a bit of intimidation into the air for the opposing team.
For the entirety of the careers of the five USU men’s basketball seniors’ careers, the crowd has done their thing to pump them up, something the team has come to expect and count on. It is a staple in their pre-game routine and something they will never forget.
“I really love ‘I Believe That We Will Win,’” said guard/forward Spencer Butterfield. “It just gives you chills every time you hear it.”
The feelings toward the cheer are pretty consistent across the team.
“I’ll miss everything about the Spectrum. I have some good memories from here, and it’s something I’ll always remember,” said center Jarred Shaw. “’I Believe That We Will Win’ is what gets me fired up.”
The Spectrum is a one of a kind experience. The fan support the team sees has made a difference and helped the players through their careers.
“First and foremost I’ll miss the fans and the people who have watched me play and supported me since I’ve been here,” said guard Preston Medlin. “You don’t get fans who are cheering you on every day at work.”
As they’ve progressed through their careers, these Aggie seniors have each worked to find and develop their respective roles on the team. As the most experienced member of the team, Medlin has found his place as a leader.
“I’ve been here for five years, that’s a long time. I’m a senior, so I need to focus on trying to get everyone into their role and to know where they’re at,” he said. “It’s the same on and off the court. I need to be vocal, and I’ve been trying to do that this year.”
In addition to be a leader, Medlin has had a well-decorated career, earning first team all-WAC honors and second-team NABC all-District honors as a sophomore, as well as being named a preseason all-WAC selection and the WAC Preseason Player of the Year last season, in addition to being named to the Bob Cousy Award Preseason Watch List this season. He will leave many marks in the Utah State record books, including scoring, three-point shooting, assists and assist-turnover ratio.
Though he’s only been at Utah State for two years, Butterfield has also found himself in a position of leadership. Last season, he earned second-team all-Western Athletic Conference honors and was named to the all-WAC Newcomer Team. He will leave with several marks in the Utah State record books for his sharpshooting from three-point range and his rebounding.
“My role is to try and be a leader by example. If I come in every day and give it everything I’ve got, then people will follow that,” he said. “I just try and do the right thing, take care of my classes and just have fun with the guys.”
Luckily, the chemistry and makeup of this team makes that an easy task. Everyone knows their role and knows what they need to do.
“We all get along really well,” Butterfield said. “There’s not much I have to do off the court because we all take care of business pretty well.”
While he may not get as many minutes as his teammates, forward Sean Harris has found his key to success in making the situations fun.
“My current role on the team is to keep the mood light. I joke around with the guys to make it easy at practice and on the road,” said Harris, who even though he has only appeared in limited action, he is nationally known for his red hair hightop flat top. “As a senior, I’m trying to lead by having a good attitude at all times. I’m having a good time, enjoying basketball and being with this group of guys.”
Guard TeNale Roland has found his style of leadership is most effective on the court, where he is among the team and conference leaders in assists and assist to turnover ratio.
“On the court, my role is to be more of a leader. I need to lead the team on offense and make sure we get into our plays,” he said. “I’ve learned how to be a true point guard. You don’t have to score every possession. I’ve learned how to get my teammates involved and become more of an offensive type of player.”
While Roland is there to guide the mid-court, Shaw finds his niche in the post, where he has had a successful and decorated time as an Aggie, earned second-team all-WAC accolades and was also named to the all-WAC Newcomer Team, after being named the WAC Preseason Newcomer of the Year. This senior will also leave his mark in the Utah State record books for rebounding and blocked shots.
“My role is to be a presence down low on both the offensive and defensive ends. It’s changed a lot because I feel like I’ve had to step up more in big games,” he said. “I just do what I have to do. I’m proud of myself, and I’m proud of my teammates.”
This senior class has been through a lot in the time they’ve been together. As they’ve worked through injuries, ups and downs of the game and a conference move, the team has grown together and bonded.
Harris came in to the Utah State program finishing up his recovery from a knee injury. In the first day of practice though, he suffered another knee injury and had to start again. While some people would let that get them down, Harris saw it as an opportunity.
“No matter what setbacks you have, you can always come back. No matter what the trial is or what happens, it will be okay,” he said. “I didn’t think I’d ever play basketball again. To me it’s a reassurance that no matter how far away you think you are from your goal, you can always accomplish whatever you set your mind to.”
Roland has also found that everything is easier when you remain optimistic.
“Stay positive,” he said. “You’re going to have ups and downs through college, but stay positive, stay on the books and get the job done.”
Leaving the WAC for the Mountain West has proven to be a massive undertaking for this team. While the season hasn’t necessarily gone the way anyone anticipated or hoped, the Aggie seniors have found the benefits in the struggle.
“Moving into the Mountain West has helped me a lot. It’s a better conference with more talent. In a basketball sense that’s great because you get to play against better people which makes you a better player. You’re playing against more athletic guys and have to figure out ways to score. You can’t get down after you lose a game,” Medlin said. “Every single day you’re playing a tough team and it’s hard to win. You have to stay positive even if you’re not winning. It’s been tough, but really fun.”
Butterfield sees the change as a chance to develop his game.
“There have definitely been some challenges moving into the Mountain West. It’s an entirely different level of competition. It’s taught me that you can get better as long as you stick with it,” he said. “The WAC was a good stepping stone for my first year and gave me confidence, but the Mountain West has so much more competition that it allows you to evolve your game.”
Of the whole senior class, only Medlin has been at Utah State for his entire career. The remaining four trickled in from junior colleges and other universities around the country. Though they don’t have the same number of years of USU experience, they all consider themselves Aggies through and through.
Butterfield, Roland and Harris all came to Logan from the community college level and found they had to adjust to the change of pace of the Division I game.
“The biggest difference is just the level of competition,” Roland said. “The game is much faster. Everything is bigger and faster.”
For Butterfield, the biggest difference wasn’t as noticeable in the games, but more so in daily practice.
“Practices are the biggest difference to me,” he said. “The intensity and the demand that coaches have of you is the biggest challenge you have to overcome at this level.”
With all the ups and downs the team has seen this season, there have been emotional highs and lows, excitement and frustration. As the season comes to a close, the seniors are looking to go out on a high note.
“I anticipate this to be a good game. I want to go out with a bang and a win. I want to have a great game,” Shaw said. “It will give us momentum. As seniors especially, we don’t want to be done. This will just motivate us to carry it over to the Mountain West Tournament.”
After the final regular-season game against Wyoming Wednesday night, all eyes will be on the Mountain West Tournament. The team is going into the its first MW Tournament confident and optimistic.
“We’re going to approach the tournament with our backs against the wall. That’s the best way to approach it,” Butterfield said. “Other teams may be a little more relaxed going in because it’s not a do or die for them. For us it is, so I think that will give us a little bit of an edge.”
USU hosts Wyoming on Wednesday, March 5 at 8 p.m. in USU’s regular-season and home finale. Aggies will be honoring their five seniors in a pre-game ceremony.
For Utah State men’s basketball ticket information, fans can contact the USU Athletics Ticket Office over the phone by calling 1-888-USTATE-1 or 435-797-0305 during regular hours of operation. Fans can also buy their tickets in person at the USU Ticket Office inside the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum or online by clicking on the “Buy Tickets” tab at www.UtahStateAggies.com.
USU’s Big Blue Scholarship Fund’s Aggie Basketball Coaches Luncheon in Salt Lake City has been moved from Monday, March 3 to Friday, March 7. The luncheon, featuring USU head coach Stew Morrill, will begin at Noon and end at 1 p.m.
This is the final luncheon in Salt Lake City this season. The luncheon will be held at the Hampton Inn Downtown (425 S 300 W). Cost for the Wasatch Front Luncheon is $15 for Big Blue Scholarship Fund members and $18 for non-members.
For more information contact the Big Blue Scholarship Fund at (435) 797-2583.
Fans can follow the Aggie men’s basketball program at twitter.com/AggieHoops. USU fans can also follow the Utah State athletic program at twitter.com/USUAthletics, on facebook at Utah State University Athletics or on instagram at instagram.com/USUAthletics.