LOGAN, Utah – Utah State senior guard Sam Merrill has been named the Mountain West Preseason Player of the Year, as voted upon by the media and announced by the league offices on Tuesday. Additionally, Merrill and sophomore center Neemias Queta were named preseason all-Mountain West, representing the lone set of teammates on the list.
Merrill, the 2019 Mountain West Player of the Year and MW Tournament MVP, led the Aggies to both the regular season and conference tournament title a season ago after pacing USU with a team-best 20.9 points per game. Merrill finished the year with 731 points, the fifth-most in a single season in Utah State history, while his average of 20.9 points per game ranked second in the MW. Merrill was also the top distributor for the Aggies, totaling a team-best 147 assists and averaging 4.2 per contest to rank fifth in the MW.
Merrill was also named third-team All-American by Stadium, AP honorable mention All-American, first-team all-Mountain West, first-team all-District 17 by the National Association of Basketball Coaches and all-District VIII by the U.S. Basketball Writers Association. Merrill will enter the 2019-20 season with 1,568 career points and could become just the fourth Aggie in the history of the program to eclipse 2,000 career points.
Merrill spent part of his offseason participating in the CP3 Elite Guard Camp as one of just 15 collegiate point guards invited to the camp. The camp annually features the top-30 high school point guards from around the country and the top-15 collegiate point guards for an intense three-day training camp with current NBA player Chris Paul of the Houston Rockets. Players were tutored by Paul on everything from skill development to film breakdown to life skills.
Queta was one of just 66 players in the nation invited to the NBA Draft Combine last season after being named the Mountain West Freshman and Defensive Player of the Year in 2018-19. Queta shattered the single-season blocks record at USU and helped the Aggies to their first appearance in the NCAA Tournament since 2011. Queta finished the year with 84 blocks, far surpassing the previous school record of 59, set by Shawn Daniels during the 2000-01 season. Queta led the Mountain West and finished 14th in the nation with 2.4 blocks per contest. He started the year with at least one block in 29 straight games, the longest such streak in Utah State history, and recorded at least one rejection in all but one game during the year. Queta recorded a season-high six blocks in two games this season, matching the third-most blocks in a game in Utah State history and setting a new Mountain West freshman record.
In addition to his defense, Queta finished second on the team with 11.8 points per game and led the team with 8.9 rebounds per game. Queta scored in double figures in 24 games and logged a team-best 10 double-doubles during the year. Queta’s team-leading 312 rebounds during the year marked the first time an Aggie has surpassed 300 rebounds in a season since the 1976-77 campaign and marked a new USU freshman record.
Queta spent his summer as a member of Portugal’s U20 team that captured the FIBA European Championship – Division B title, earning all-star five honors after grading out as the most efficient player in the tournament. Queta finished among the top-20 in scoring with 14.3 points per game (16th) and rebounding with 11.0 per game (3rd), and was one of only three players to average a double-double. Queta also finished second in the tournament with 2.0 blocks per game, including a tournament-best four in Portugal’s opening round game against North Macedonia.
Utah State hosts The College of Idaho in an exhibition contest on Wednesday, Oct. 30, before welcoming Montana State to the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum on Tuesday, Nov. 5, for the home opener at 8 p.m.
2019-20 PRESEASON ALL-MOUNTAIN WEST TEAM
Pos. Name Yr. Team
F Lavelle Scottie Sr. Air Force
G Derrick Alston Jr. Boise State
F/C Nico Carvacho Sr. Colorado State
G Sam Merrill Sr. Utah State
C Neemias Queta So. Utah State
Preseason Player of the Year
Sam Merrill, Sr., G, Utah State
Preseason Newcomer of the Year
Malachi Flynn, Jr., G, San Diego State
Preseason Freshman of the Year
K.J. Hymes, F, Nevada