June 28, 2012
LOGAN, Utah - At the beginning of the 2011-12 Utah State men's basketball season, there were a few familiar faces missing from the roster. Four of the five of the previous season's starters had graduated and moved on, leaving the team to rebuild and learn to continue the preceding legacy.
One of the cornerstones through the winningest four-year stretch in USU history was forward Tai Wesley (Provo, Utah). In his time as an Aggie, Wesley appeared in 139 games, tied with Tyler Newbold for the most in school history. Of those games, Wesley started 128 times and ended his career with a mark of 111-28, another school record.
Wesley collected numerous honors and awards during his collegiate career. After his senior season, he was named an honorable mention All-American and earned a roster spot on the National Association of Basketball Coaches All-Star team. He was named the Western Athletic Conference Player of the Year in 2011, while claiming spots on the all-WAC first-team in both the 2010 and 2011 seasons.
Wesley ended his Utah State career with a 59.6 percent shooting average from the field (657 of 1,102), contributing to his 1,749 total points, putting him in eighth place in school history. In the record books he currently sits in third in blocks (144), eighth in assists (356), and ninth in steals (112).
Wesley is continuing to see success in both athletic and personal endeavors as he recently finished his first season playing professional basketball in Europe. He helped the Eiffel Towers of Den Bosch, Netherlands to the national title in the Dutch Basketball League. In his season abroad, Wesley shot 57.7 percent from the field, 36.4 percent from the three-point line and 55.8 percent from the free throw line, while averaging 6.1 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game. He led the Eiffel Towers in scoring, averaging 13.4 points per game.
Wesley is back in Cache Valley for the summer, waiting to see where he will be living and playing next season. In the meantime, he is preparing for his July 27 wedding to Chyna Smith and enjoying the downtime while he can get it. He took a few minutes to talk to us about the last year, as well as his upcoming plans.
How was your first season playing professionally?
"My first year was great. I don't think I could ask for anything more. I got to get my feet wet and experience pro basketball and win a championship in the meantime. I was able to receive a few awards which will help with my resume. I think it was successful. Overall I can't complain about the way things went, not just in my career but in my personal life."
What was the hardest adjustment to make from playing college ball?
"The hardest adjustment was the pace of the game. It's a lot faster there, especially with the shot clock only being 24 seconds, you don't have a lot of time to run plays. You have to get a good look and get a good shot, and if you can't then you force up a shot. The play was different, the pace of the game was different. It took me a little while to catch on."
What was your favorite part of living in the Netherlands?
"I think it was just the experience of being in another country, being immersed in a different culture, getting to know the Dutch people and building relationships."
What things did you learn from Stew Morrill and his staff that have helped you in your professional career?
"Everything. The biggest thing is hard work. Another thing is just keeping control of the key concepts. You play professionally and it's a little different. You see guys who are out here just for themselves. I already learned how to be a team player and work hard. That was able to translate over to the professional level and be a big part of my game."
When you were here playing with Gary Wilkinson and Jaycee Carroll, did you realize the potential the three of you had and where you would end up? What was it like to play with them?
"My first year playing (2007-08) we had Jaycee and Gary and myself. If we could go back and see the team we had, I think we could have done a lot better. We could have won the WAC Tournament that year and made a run in the NCAA Tournament. I wish we would have known what we had back then. I wish we could have that year over again."
"Now that we're all out and playing professionally, it's neat to talk to them and trade stories. We still support each other and are interested in each others lives. We're going through these experiences together. It's nice to have people on your team and in your corner to help you as you experience this crazy ride of professional basketball."
You're getting married in July, how are preparations coming? How will being married affect your career?
"Preparations are going great. I think my role in all of that is to not say anything and let my fiance do all the planning because it all works out better that way. I've definitely learned that lately."
"Coach (Stew) Morrill's number one piece of advice to me when I went overseas was to get married and have a wife. I'm taking his advice and I think it will help my career tremendously. I will have support every day and at every game. It will keep me stable. I'll eat healthier and go to bed earlier. It will keep me happier and healthier and I won't be so lonely. All I can see are pros to having a wife there."
What's the next step in your career?
"I don't know yet. I think a couple offers will come in soon, one being from my team in Holland. We're just going to sit back and wait and see what the options are, then go from there. We'll just see what the best situation will be for us."
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