Logan • Stew Morrill has trotted teams out before in intra-squad exhibitions, only to watch his veterans crush his incoming talent.
But after watching mixed teams compete for 40 minutes in an admittedly loosely structured setting, he was encouraged to see a bit of give and take. Watching Kyle Davis battle in the post against Jarred Shaw, or Jalen Moore and Danny Berger compete on the wings, Morrill was pleased to see real battles happening three weeks into his fall practices.
"We've got a little more depth, a little more balance than we had last year," Morrill said. "The good thing was that the sessions were competitive."
The Aggies' depth was reassuring to the fans who came out to steal a first peek at the Aggies men's basketball team that will try to make a statement in the Mountain West this fall. For a team plagued by injuries and transfers last season, you can't blame fans for wanting to see what's down the depth chart.
The veterans, of course, got their highlights. Preston Medlin had a game-high 19, showing solid touch after recovering from a season-ending wrist fracture last season. Shaw missed out on a double-double with 15 points and nine rebounds, while Spencer Butterfield ended up with a gritty 15 points and some hustle steals.
But standout performances from new faces did more to ease concerns about fielding a team an injury away from losing its competitive edge. SUU transfer Davis started rusty, but came on in the later sessions to finish with 19 points and 15 rebounds. His hustle in the post showed why Morrill and the staff have taken an early liking to him.
"Overall things are starting to click more with our team, we're starting to mesh better. It was a lot of fun," Davis said. "I started to feel it a lot better and get my rhythm down, seeing the lanes a lot better. I got into a bit of a groove there."
He wasn't the only one: Freshman Jalen Moore, a local prep star from Sky View, had 12 points, with a fast-break dunk that got some of the most vigorous response from the several hundred fans in the Spectrum. Jojo McGlaston found ways to score at guard, Carson Shanks showed some touch in the post, and guard Viko Noma'aea had five assists - including a no-look pass behind his head that set up an easy bucket for Shaw.
The other big positive for the Aggies was showing how their many injured players from last season are back to contributing.
Medlin's wrist obviously wasn't an issue, and Butterfield's hip didn't seem to be either. Sean Harris, the oft-injured forward, played his first minutes in front of a crowd since coming to Utah State, and had two blocks and four steals.
The biggest cheers, however, were reserved for Berger. The junior scored 17 points in his first public outing since suffering a heart attack last December. He even pleased the crowd with a big dunk early on in the scrimmage.
"It's awesome," Morrill said of seeing his players back. "The guys who have been hurt, they're back out there."
Returners Marcel Davis and Jordan Stone also added 10 points apiece. TeNale Roland did not score but had four assists.
Of course, Utah State is still dogged by the issues that will dog every team this early in the season: 21 turnovers, 47 percent shooting and general miscues will drew Morrill's attention. Fortunately for the Aggies, they have a week left before their first exhibition against Central Methodist on Oct. 25.
Utah State starts the season Nov. 8 hosting USC at the Spectrum, a game that will be broadcast on CBS Sports Network.
— Kyle Goon
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