LOGAN, Utah – It was a moment that most kids dream of. The home crowd was chanting his name after hitting multiple 3-pointers in his first collegiate start in his final home game. However, for senior guard Connor Garner it almost didn’t happen.
Garner isn’t your typical fifth-year senior. He graduated from Declo High School in Raft River, Idaho, in 2009, worked for a year and then served a two-year LDS Church mission in Hermosillo, Mexico, before enrolling at Utah State for the 2012-13 academic year. Originally, the plan was to play junior college, but Garner took his chances at a Utah State walk-on tryout and was invited to join the team.
“That was a crazy year,” Garner recalled. “That was the year that Danny (Berger) almost died, Preston (Medlin) and Kyisean (Reed) both get hurt for the whole year and got down to about seven guys. It was a crazy year.”
Garner appeared in three games that season, playing five minutes, and then transitioned into a manager role over the next three seasons. However, the fire to play and wear the Utah State colors continued to percolate in his mind.
“I had one more year to play and had one more year of eligibility,” he said. “I thought about going somewhere else to play, but that would have been really hard without having the experience of playing.
“I decided to see if I could get on with Utah State and coach Duryea allowed me to do that, so I came back for one more year.”
Fast forward to Feb. 25, and Senior Night in the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum. Garner was one of three seniors that was recognized before the tip and then appeared in the starting lineup for the first time in his career.
Garner came to the arena much earlier than normal and was at the free throw line taking shots long before any of his other teammates had arrived.
“That was one thing my dad told me,” he said of the night. “Go in and shoot some free throws and get your shot going. I approached warmups completely different, knowing that I was going to be in the game at the start and had to be ready to go. I was warming up with a lot more focus than I had been.”
Then came Senior Night presentations and he was joined on the court by his parents, Blair and Julie, who have been in attendance at every home game for Utah State this season.
“That was huge,” he said of having his parents on the court. “I was able to talk with my dad for a few minutes right before the game started. He said don’t worry about going in and doing too much. Just go in and be focused on the game plan and what you are doing on defense. If you have open shots, take ‘em.”
Open shots came for Garner as he was 3-of-5 from behind the 3-point line in the game, scoring a career-high nine points and playing a career-high 14 minutes.
The game was the “icing on the cake” for Garner as he is finishing up a dual major in statistics and economics at Utah State and is looking toward going into the actuary field.
If the game was the icing on the cake, Garner may have also found the candles this semester in his girlfriend, Shyanne, who may soon become his fiancé.
“Coming back this year I was also able to meet Shyanne,” he said, “and that has also been a great reason for coming back this season.”
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