The Aggies had a departure from the basketball team this week, but Stew Morrill and his coaching staff are ready to focus on the players they have at their disposal.
If the first exhibition of the year, a blowout over Grand Canyon, was any indication, there's going to be a lot of weapons at Utah State's disposal. But that doesn't mean the staff isn't expecting some big improvements.
"For us, it's just practice as usual," Morrill said. "We're still in the real infancy stage. We're not pointing to Simon Fraser, we're just trying to do what we need to do. There's a ton of things to work on, and things to add."
Last Friday, the Aggies revealed a bit about how this season could work. They trotted out a starting lineup of TeNale Roland, Preston Medlin, Danny Berger, Ben Clifford and Jarred Shaw. Although everyone played, those starters, along with Kyisean Reed, got the bulk of the minutes.
In the win, Morrill said he saw a lot of positives.
"I was pleased mostly that they played hard," he said. "There were some good things. We were a little sloppy offensively, but it was pretty good for a first time out. You expect a low point total in some of these early games."
Some of the negatives - a pedestrian shooting percentage in the first half, some front court fouling issues, and a so-so night from long range - could be corrected with time, Morrill said. Especially as some of the wings get more comfortable, including guys such as Berger and Spencer Butterfield, Utah State should show more ability to stretch the floor.
Against Simon Fraser, a program that only recently became the first Canadian team to join the NCAA, the Aggies should show more of the same on Saturday.
• Shaw impresses in debut: A lot of the attention in the first exhibition went to Shaw, the junior Oklahoma State transfer who finally saw his first game action last week. He finished with 15 points, 8 rebounds, and got to the line often. At 6-foot-11, Shaw is expected to remedy some of the issues Utah State had last year with inside scoring and rebounding. The coaching staff has seen great things from him, but want him to be more consistent in practice.
"Jarred's whole deal has got to be how he practices day-in and day-out," Morrill said after the scrimmage Friday. "If he practices hard day-in and day-out, he'll get better. But for his first game in several years, he did a nice job."
• Point guard shuffle: At least one position battle may be clearing up: TeNale Roland played well in 20 minutes at the point on Friday, looking cool and composed and chipping in eight points. Marcel Davis didn't play poorly at all in 12 minutes, but looked rushed at times in the first half. He settled and made some nice plays in the second half, showcasing some speed and hustle.
Starting Roland shows some confidence in the 6-foot junior college transfer, but Morrill said he felt good with both and liked what he saw.
"TeNale is very comfortable at the point guard spot, but both those kids are fighting every day," Morrill said. "Marcel's a first-year guy, but both TeNale and Marcel are doing OK."
• Medlin makes a defensive impact: Some fans may have noticed a few stretches where shooting guard Preston Medlin made his presence felt on the defensive end as well as offense. In the first half, he had a steal, a block and took a charge. He went on to knock down both free throws in a technical after the Grand Canyon player got frustrated for giving up the foul.
Medlin said he's made a concerted effort to improve his impact on that side of the floor.
"I've been trying to [work on defense]," Medlin said. "Coach Morrill would say no, but I've been trying to. ... The coaching staff put in a new system that keeps us more compact, and it worked out for us."
Kyle Goonkgoon@sltrib.comTwitter: @kylegoon