College basketball: Utah State coach excited about next season
College basketball • USU coach Stew Morrill expects big things from big players next season.
Published: April 10, 2012 11:02PM
Updated: April 27, 2012 12:03PM
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Utah State guard Preston Medlin (13) drives against Hawaii forward Trevor Wiseman (31) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Thursday, Jan. 26, 2012, in Logan, Utah. Utah State won 77-72. (AP Photo/Jim Urquhart)

Logan • Stew Morrill usually takes a few weeks off at the end of a season to decompress. He usually meets with players individually, analyzes his thoughts and goes about the business of making roster adjustments, whatever they may be.

This is a little different.

In an interview with The Salt Lake Tribune, Morrill acknowledged his excitement for the potential of next year. He made sure to temper his optimism with caution, as only he can. But the optimism is there for sure, as well as the talent to turn the Aggies back into an NCAA Tournament contender.

“Usually, when a season ends, excitement is a ways off,” Morrill said. “But I’m very excited about the potential. Much of it is unproven. But we’re going to be bigger, and the guys who will be playing will be better.”

For starters, Utah State will be able to throw the ball inside again, with 6-foot-11 Jarred Shaw becoming eligible after transferring from Oklahoma State. Then there’s 7-footer Matt Lopez, who will gain eligibility in December after transferring from LaSalle in Philadelphia.

There’s talk of playing Shaw and Lopez together, because Shaw can hit the perimeter jumper and is athletic and agile. Morrill has never had two functional guys in his frontcourt with that kind of size. And after a season during which Utah State found itself overwhelmed by several teams in the Western Athletic Conference, Lopez and Shaw will be more than welcomed.

“The size is definitely a good thing,” Morrill said. “And we have a high expectation for that size.”

And all that height should make Preston Medlin an even more effective player. The shooting guard had a breakout sophomore season in which he emerged as Utah State’s best offensive option and a far better defender than most had hoped.

A first team all-WAC selection, Medlin could be the best player in the conference next season, a lethal scorer who can play more than one position.

Utah State is actively recruiting Quan Conner and TeNale Roland out of junior college to play point guard next season. If the Aggies whiff on both, they will be left with incoming freshmen Marcel Davis and Riley Bradshaw to go with walk-on E.J. Farris as their only options.

That means Medlin, who played a bit of point guard this season, could end up running Morrill’s offense, although the coach is hesitant to play his best player out of position.

“I’m going to be working on everything this summer,” Medlin said. “I want to get better at dribbling with my off hand, I want to get stronger, and I want to work on all of my weaknesses. I will play wherever I’m asked.”

With Davis, an all-state selection from American Fork, Quincy Bair and Bradshaw, the 2012 recruiting class could be Morrill’s best. It doesn’t come without casualties, as Adam Thoseby and Igor Premasunac were released from their scholarships on Tuesday to make way for the additions.

Because of injury and the departure of six seniors from the 2010-2011 team, Morrill was woefully short of height and depth this past season. He still squeezed 21 wins out of the Aggies and a run to the finals of the CollegeInsider.com Tournament.

Morrill won’t be short of either next season. Now comes a new challenge — putting it all together and making it all work.

Twitter: @tonyaggieville

Utah State roster breakdown

Key losses • Brockeith Pane, Morgan Grim, Brady Jardine, Adam Thoseby and Igor Premasunac

Key returnees • Preston Medlin, Danny Berger, Kyisean Reed and Jordan Stone

Key additions • Marcel Davis, Quincy Bair, Jarred Shaw, Matt Lopez, Spencer Butterfield and Riley Bradshaw