USU basketball: Size a rare advantage for the Aggies
Jordan Stone has gotten used to the stares over time, as his legs stretched longer and longer. Even now, as he walks around Utah State's campus, people will gaze at the 6-foot-10 sophomore for uncomfortably long moments.
But Stone has learned to be fine in his own skin and now he's got two similarly sized friends who know what it's like: Jarred Shaw and Matt Lopez, who join Stone as the tallest men on the Aggies basketball team.
"When we walk to practice together, we get a few weird looks," Stone says. "It's something that happens your whole life, but there's a few of us now."
Utah State fans are sure to get an eyeful of the trio: centers all 6-foot-10 or taller who make the Aggies as big as they've ever been.
Stone's the returner, but two newcomers are exciting Aggie fans with the prospect of a team that could dominate in the post. Shaw, who transferred from Oklahoma State, is the one they call "Slim," an agile, athletic shooter and shot-blocker. Lopez comes to Logan from LaSalle, more of a traditional back-to-the-basket player that has been a key role at Utah State in the last decade.
Between the three, the Aggies will have some solutions to a size problem that plagued them last year.
"If you got some big ol' guys who can be productive, they can give you some physicality," coach Stew Morrill says. "I like having some size. We've had some big guys over the years who we could give the ball and tell them to get something done in there."
The last time the Aggies had three men 6-foot-10 or taller was in 2006, when Lithuanian big man Arvydas Vaitiekus was still roaming the campus.
Stone was raised in Smithfield, and remembers watching fellow Sky View alum Nate Harris dominate inside at The Spectrum. That helped cultivate his love for Aggie basketball, seeing up close how big men could thrive.
Lopez and Shaw didn't get that same benefit, but Utah State has a wide reputation for being a good school for the vertically gifted.
"I did some research, and I found out Utah State, they like to give the big guys the ball a lot," Shaw says. "This is exactly where I thought I should be. I really like my decision to come here."
All three guys are still in a battle for minutes. Lopez will be sitting out the first seven contests as a condition of his transfer, so Shaw and Stone should split time early.
But bear in mind: They'll definitely be splitting, not sharing, minutes. Morrill plans to play one of them at a time to better free up power forwards Kyisean Reed and Ben Clifford in other spots on the floor.
It's a battle in practice, but by all accounts a friendly one.
"There's no animosity there at all, not coming from our position," Lopez says. "It's all out of love. We're all competing, but if someone should be playing more for us to win, then that's who's going to play."
Utah State is looking to improve its post offense this year, as well as its rebounding. Whoever makes the step up, it's looking like the Aggies could be in for bigger things.
"We'll probably look to the post more, maybe get more shots in," Stone says. "We have to make sure we can get it done in the post and open it up for the outside."
Meet the bigs
Jordan Stone • 6-foot-10, 270-pound sophomore, averaged 2.1 points, 2.5 rebounds last season
Jarred Shaw • 6-foot-10, 230-pound junior, sat out last season after transfer from Oklahoma State
Matt Lopez • 6-foot-11, 260-pound sophomore, will sit through end of fall semester after transfer from LaSalle