Oct. 16, 2008
LOGAN, Utah -
Utah State's men's basketball team will begin the 2008-09 season with its first official practice on Friday, Oct. 17 at 6:30 p.m. in the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum as head coach Stew Morrill welcomes 15 players to the floor. Practices are closed to the public.
Utah State, which is picked to finish second in the Western Athletic Conference by both the coaches and media in the preseason polls, returns three starters and six letterwinners from last year's team that went 24-11 overall and won a share of its first-ever WAC regular season championship as it finished league play with a 12-4 mark. USU concluded its season with a 61-57 loss at Illinois State in the first round of the 2008 MasterCard National Invitation Tournament.
Among those returning for Utah State is senior forward Gary Wilkinson who was named the WAC's Preseason Player of the Year by the media. In his first year at Utah State, Wilkinson averaged 13.3 points and 7.0 rebounds per game, while shooting 58.4 percent from the field and 81.5 percent from the free throw line. Wilkinson finished the year ranking fourth in the WAC in field goal shooting, fifth in free throw shooting, eighth in rebounding and 13th in scoring.
Utah State also returns sophomore forward Tai Wesley who was named to the WAC's preseason second-team after averaging 9.9 points and 4.5 rebounds in his first year at USU. Wesley finished the year ranking third in the conference in field goal shooting (63.5) and eighth in blocked shots (0.94).
Along with Wilkinson and Wesley, Utah State also returns Tyler Newbold to the starting lineup as the sophomore guard averaged 5.4 points and 2.4 rebounds per game last year and shot 54.7 percent from the field, 51.5 percent from three-point range and 83.9 percent from the free throw line. USU also returns three reserves from last year's team in sophomore center Modou Niang, sophomore forward Matt Formisano, and sophomore guard Pooh Williams.
Utah State's first exhibition game will be on Friday, Oct. 31 against Northwest Nazarene at 7 p.m. in the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum and its regular season and home opener will be on Friday, Nov. 14 against Montana State-Northern.
Utah State Men's Basketball Preseason Notes
Utah State is picked to finish second in the Western Athletic Conference by both the coaches and media in the preseason polls, while senior forward Gary Wilkinson was named the WAC's preseason Player of the Year by the media. Sophomore forward Tai Wesley also received preseason recognition as he was named to the WAC's second-team.
Utah State returns 43.1 percent of its points, 49.5 percent of its rebounds, 44.0 percent of its minutes, 33.2 percent of its assists, 36.8 percent of its steals, 73.7 percent of its blocked shots, 44.2 percent of its field goals made, 25.6 percent of its three-point field goals made, and 45.9 percent of its free throws made from a year ago.
Utah State returns three starters (Tyler Newbold, Tai Wesley and Gary Wilkinson) and six lettermen from the 2007-08 team that went 24-11, finished in first-place in the Western Athletic Conference with a 12-4 record, and advanced to the National Invitation Tournament where it lost at Illinois State (61-57) in the first round.
Head coach Stew Morrill (237-86) is the winningest coach in school history and is second all-time in games coached (323) behind the legendary E. Lowell Romney (382). Morrill is also the longest tenured coach at Utah State (entering 11th season) since the H. Cecil Baker era (1951-61).
Entering his 11th season with the Aggies, Morrill has a 237-86 (.734) overall record, a 124-44 (.738) conference record and an 18-6 (.750) record in conference postseason play. Overall, Morrill owns a 455-224 (.670) record in 22 years as a collegiate head coach.
Among active coaches at the Division I level, Morrill ranks 22nd in the nation with his 455 career wins and 27th in winning percentage at 67.0 percent.
Morrill is one of just 33 active coaches with 400 career wins at the Division I level and one of just 13 active coaches to notch 13 20-win seasons, while his current streak of nine straight 20-win seasons is tied for the eighth-longest in the nation.
Utah State returns one player from last season who was honored by the Western Athletic Conference in senior forward Gary Wilkinson (second-team all-WAC; WAC all-newcomer team). Wilkinson averaged 13.3 points and 7.0 rebounds during his junior season.
Utah State has just one senior on its roster in forward Gary Wilkinson. The last time a USU team had just one senior on its team was during the 1999-2000 campaign in guard Troy Rolle. That team finished the season with a 28-6 record, including a perfect 16-0 mark in the Big West Conference.
Utah State has 10 underclassmen on its 2008-09 roster (five freshmen and five sophomores), which is the most-ever on a USU team. The 2001-02 squad had nine underclassmen on its roster.
The seven players from the state of Utah on the 2008-09 roster are the most on a USU team since the 1988-89 squad also had seven in-state players on its roster.
Aggie players from the state of Utah include senior forward Gary Wilkinson (South Jordan/Bingham), junior forward Clint Lee (North Logan/Sky View HS), junior guard Jared Quayle (Perry/Box Elder HS), sophomore guard Tyler Newbold (Payson/Payson HS), sophomore forward Tai Wesley (Provo/Provo HS), redshirt freshman guard Jaxon Myaer (Salt Lake City/Judge Memorial HS), and freshman guard Skyler Halford (Orem/Timpanogos HS).
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