LOGAN, Utah - Utah State men's basketball held its first practice on the season on Friday afternoon, breaking in a total of 10 newcomers and welcoming back five, including four returning letterwinners and one redshirt.
"Day one is always an exciting day. The first day of practice, everything is new. Shoes are new, gear's new. Everybody has a lot of energy and ready to go," second-year head coach Tim Duryea said. "We're excited about this group. We have a lot of new kids, but this group has a motor. They're very coachable, they have a lot of energy and I'm really looking forward to coaching them."
With all of the roster turnover, Utah State will enter the year with a lot of unknowns, but brimming with new talent. Included in the mix are transfers Ngor Barnaba (Missouri State West Plains) and Norbert Janicek (Snow College) who are both anticipated to provide solid play in the post. Barnaba, a 6-foot-8 forward, led the Grizzlies in both scoring a rebounding last year, averaging 14.7 points and 7.5 rebounds per game. Janicek, a 6-11 post, led the Badgers in scoring and rebounding last season, averaging 15.6 points and 6.2 rebounds per game.
They are joined in the paint by a pair of freshmen posts, in Klay Stall and Trevin Dorius, coming from Basha (Ariz.) High School and Wasatch (Utah) High School, respectively. Quinn Taylor, a 2015-16 letterwinner, rounds out the forwards, having appeared in 30 games last season, including 12 starts, while averaging 4.2 points and 3.7 rebounds per game.
Senior Jalen Moore headlines the group playing on the wings, as he has led the Aggies in scoring and rebounding each of the past two seasons. He will be joined on the wings by Alexis Dargenton, coming off of a redshirt year in 2015-16, freshman Daron Henson and senior Connor Garner, who has served as a team manager for the past three seasons. Henson prepped in California, playing his final year at Cathedral High School after two years at Alemany High School.
Utah State's guard line will have the most experience coming back in senior Shane Rector and junior Julion Pearre. Rector had career numbers in back-to-back starts to finish 2015-16 in directing the USU offense during the Mountain West Tournament. Pearre has appeared in every game for the Aggies since stepping foot onto campus and is averaging more than seven points per game over the course of his career.
The depth at the guard position will be provided by four freshmen, in Sam Merrill and Abel Porter, both recently returned LDS Church missionaries, four-star recruit Koby McEwen and Portuguese international Diogo Brito.
"Having 10 newcomers is exciting on one end and yet a little nerve-racking as a coach," Duryea said. "Guys are always better their second and third year in the program. The challenge is unique to each individual group. Some groups pick things up a lot quicker than others.
"That remains to be seen with this group. Hopefully we can go at a pretty good pace and get most of our package in before we play the first game," he continued. "But we'll have to see how we go and who picks it up and who doesn't. That's always one of the separators of who's going to earn playing time is who can pick things up quickly, make them habits and become better."
In addition to a new-look roster, Utah State will also feature a new addition to its coaching staff in USU Hall of Famer Spencer Nelson. Nelson played for the Aggies from 1999, 2003-05 and peppered his name among the Utah State record books, finishing among the top 20 in 10 career statistics.
"I'm really excited about Spencer," Duryea said. "He's an Aggie, he's experienced, he's been through the program and I like what he brings to our staff in terms of energy, experience and pro experience, as well."
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.
Utah State men's basketball news and information is available on Facebook facebook.com/USUmen'sbasketball and on Twitter @Aggiehoops. Fans can also get USU men's basketball highlights on YouTube at youtube.com/UtahStateAthletics. Aggie fans can follow the Utah State athletic program at Twitter @USUAthletics, on Facebook at facebook.com/USUAthletics, or on Instagram @USUAthletics.
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