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CIT gives Utah State's Danny Berger a shot of confidence

Published March 28, 2012 11:47 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Logan • The CollegeInsider.com Tournament was made for players like Danny Berger.

And with a tournament made for him, his game and his growth as a basketball player, Berger made it all work for him.

Preston Medlin proved he was a go-to guy, but everyone knew he was already on the verge of stardom. Berger, the skinny sophomore forward pressed into service in what was supposed to be his redshirt season, is the Utah State starter who made the most strides with the extra three weeks of practice.

Against Mercer on Wednesday night, Berger scored 13 points, grabbed six rebounds and handed out four assists. More importantly, Berger broke out of the slump he went through at the end of the season.

"I think the tournament was good for me," Berger said. "It helped me get experience that I wouldn't normally have gotten. I gained a lot of confidence. I thought it turned out well for all of us."

When talking about Berger this season, Utah State coaches were almost apologetic for even playing him. Coming off his mission, the 6-foot-7 small forward was supposed to spend the year learning Stew Morrill's system, and getting stronger.

But with the defection of Steven Thornton at the semester break, Berger was pressed into action, and broke into the starting lineup almost right away.

At his best, Berger is an all-around weapon, capable of shooting it from deep and putting the ball on the floor and going to the basket.

His issue, especially against strong and athletic teams, became his lack of strength, and a lack of stamina. Those problems aren't going to be corrected without a full offseason of bulking up. Berger and the coaches knew that.

Slowly, however, Berger has started to evolve into the player Aggie coaches thought they were getting when they recruited him. Against Mercer, Berger made a trio of 3-pointers. He went to the offensive glass and came up with two tip-ins, something he hadn't previously done.

He's looked quicker and more sure of himself and his place on the court. He has played consistently well all tournament.

"This has been such a valuable experience for a guy like Danny," Morrill said. "He's been really up and down this season, and he's played very well in this setting. It's definitely going to help him get ready for next season. We think he will be more comfortable with more experience."

tjones@sltrib.com

Twitter: @tonyaggieville