LOGAN, Utah – Utah State men’s basketball will hold its first official practice on Friday, marking the beginning of the 2016-17 season for the Aggies. The season will feature a roster brimming with new talent as the Aggies welcome in 10 newcomers to a roster with one returning redshirt and four returning letterwinners.
Headlining the group of returners is senior wing Jalen Moore, who has led the team in scoring and rebounding each of the past two seasons. Moore became the 37th in school history to eclipse 1,000 career points, ending the 2015-16 campaign with 1,119 after averaging 15.2 points per game.
In addition to his scoring, Moore earned the Chairman of the Boards award after leading the Aggies with 6.0 rebounds per game.
Moore is slated to play the three throughout the year for Utah State, a move that second-year head coach Tim Duryea said will only help the senior in the future.
“Our goal this year is to play Jalen at his natural position, which is the three,” Duryea said. “I expect him to excel in all phases of the game, from rebounding the ball, to scoring and his shooting percentages. I see him improving in all of those things, playing at a position where his future is as a basketball player.”
Senior guard Shane Rector returns and will direct the Aggies at the point, having excelled in a pair of starts at the Mountain West Tournament at the end of the last season, averaging 17.5 points, 5.0 rebounds and 4.5 assists over the two-game stretch.
“Shane is coming into this year as the incumbent at the point and played very well in the tournament against Wyoming and San Diego State,” Duryea said. “Shane has a clear mind going forward, in terms of what he needs to do at this level and what I would like him to do at this level to run our team.”
Julion Pearre is another guard with a wealth of experience, having played in every game with the Aggies since his arrival in Logan. Pearre finished the 2015-16 season with four straight double-digit scoring outings and finished the year averaging 8.0 points per game.
“Julion is a battle-tested, two-year guy that has played as many minutes as anyone else in the program over the last two years,” Duryea said. “He is an extremely tough, aggressive kid and I love his mentality on the floor. He never backs down and he never takes his foot off of the pedal.”
The final returner for the Aggies is sophomore forward Quinn Taylor, who played in all but one game for the Aggies last season after completing a two-year LDS Church Mission in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Taylor entered the year as a walk-on, but earned a scholarship following his determined play on the court, averaging 4.2 points and 3.7 rebounds per game.
“Quinn has done a good job for us,” Duryea said. “Things just turn out well when he’s on the floor. He is a great execution guy.”
In addition to the four returners, the Aggies bring in 10 newcomers and a group that is being regarded as one of the top recruiting classes at Utah State.
Headlining the group is four-star guard Koby McEwen, a 6-3 guard from Wasatch Academy (Utah), who led the Tigers to 29-4 record as a senior, averaging 18.7 points, 4.6 rebounds and 5.4 assists per game.
“Koby’s versatility allows him to play the one or two,” Duryea said. “He has the size and shooting ability to play the two and has tremendous instincts in passing the ball that allows him to play the one.”
Joining him on the guard line is Sam Merrill, returning from and LDS Church Mission in Nicaragua. Merrill, a 6-4 guard, led Bountiful (Utah) High School to a state championship as a senior, scoring 23 points in the championship game. Over the course of his prep career, Merrill was named first-team all-state as a junior and senior as well as the Region 6 MVP as a junior.
“Sam is a kid that will make up a lot of ground in a hurry,” Duryea said. “He is a very efficient basketball player because he figures out his strengths and plays to them and figures out his weaknesses and stays away from them. He has a thorough grasp on who he is as a player and that will really allow him to advance.”
Portuguese international Diogo Brito will join the team fresh off an appearance with Portugal in the U-20 FIBA World Championships, leading the team with 10.8 points per game.
“Diogo has an extremely high offensive intellect,” Duryea said. “European kids are very high level offensive players because they are trained at an early age about the intricacies of the pick-and-roll game. They practice with professional teams and older players and are exposed to a lot of experience in practice and those they play against. Diogo’s adjustment will be how fast he can adjust on the defensive end of the floor.”
The last addition to the guards is Abel Porter, also returning from an LDS Church Mission, who was an all-state performer at Davis (Utah) High School.
“Abel was a very productive player at Davis High School,” Duryea said. “He is a point guard that takes a lot of pride in running and organizing a team. His strength is making the players around him better.”
Along with a talented group of guards, Utah State added four post players that are all 6-foot-8 or taller.
Tallest among the group is Snow College transfer Norbert Janicek, measuring in at 6-11. Janicek will have three years to play for the Aggies after earning first-team all-Scenic West Athletic Conference honors and leading the Badgers with 15.6 points and 6.2 rebounds per game.
“Norbie is a very gifted low post scorer with both hands around the basket and an extremely hard worker,” Duryea said. “With three years to play, all of his best basketball is in front of him. He’s really just getting started in figuring out how good he can be.”
Another transfer, Ngor Barnaba from Missouri State West Plains, will bolster the bigs, standing at 6-foot-8. Barnaba led the Grizzlies in scoring and rebounding last season, turning in 14.7 points and 7.5 rebounds per game.
“Ngor has the ability to stretch the floor from the four or five spot,” Duryea said. “When you want to play small, you can play Ngor at the five and he’ll give you a more 5-out look on the floor. It will give the defense some problems with five shooters on the floor.”
Klay Stall will be the youngest of the post players in both age and development, after missing his senior year at Basha (Ariz.) High School because of a knee injury. As a junior, Stall averaged a double-double of 11.8 points and 11.4 rebounds per game en route to being named honorable mention all-Arizona Division I.
“Klay is our most athletic big,” Duryea said. “He is extremely bouncy, but he needs to develop his body as he missed his whole senior year in his development. Physically, he is younger than most of the group and he is younger in terms of basketball because of the missed year, but has a tremendous upside because of his athletic ability.”
Rounding out the bigs is freshman walk-on Trevin Dorius, a 6-10 post out Wasatch (Utah) High School, where he averaged 9.3 points and 7.9 rebounds per game.
“Trevin is a five-man that we’re looking to develop,” Duryea said. “We’ll let him go at his own pace to begin with to develop the skill and strength to be successful at this level.”
On the wings, Utah State returns redshirt Alexis Dargenton and adds freshman Daron Henson. In addition, fifth-year senior Connor Garner will walk on after serving as a team manager and member of the scout team over the past three years.
Dargenton sat out the 2015-16 season after transferring from Laramie County Community College, where he averaged 12.4 points and a team-best 7.7 rebounds per game.
“Alex is a kid who has spent a year in our program and his best attribute is his activity level and motor as a player,” Duryea said. “He can block a shot on one end and then get an offensive rebound tip-in on the other end. He is a very active player and his activity level is his biggest strength at the moment.”
Henson played his final year of high school at Cathedral (Calif.) High School after a three-year career at Alemany (Calif.) High School, scoring in double digits as both a junior and sophomore.
“Daron may be the best pure shooter in our program,” Duryea said. “He is a long athletic wing, who is developing as a ball handler and passer to be more of a total offensive player. He is exceptionally gifted at shooting the basketball.”
Garner earned a walk-on spot after working with the scout team as a manager over the past three seasons.
Utah State will host its Prime Time Madness event on Friday, Oct. 14, giving fans their first look at the team in a scrimmage and skills competition. The Aggies will host an exhibition game against Southern Virginia on Nov. 4, before opening the 2016-17 campaign on the road at UC Irvine on Friday, Nov. 11. USU will open at home in the first of 16 home contests on Monday, Nov. 14, against NJIT.
USU men’s basketball season ticket renewals and new season tickets are now on sale. For more Aggie 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.
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