After watching his stars sitting out for half a season, Stew Morrill is content with two hours a week to coach them during the summer.
With NCAA-restricted practice hours, the Utah State men's basketball staff can only do so much work with the team. But in those limited sessions, Morrill said he's seen promising strides from Preston Medlin and Danny Berger in their returns from injury, two of several encouraging signs as the Aggies enter a monthlong break before the school year.
"You can look at them for one thing and see they're getting stronger," Morrill said. "This may be our best offseason strength training we've ever had. Now if they don't go home and sit on the couch for a month, we should be able to keep rolling when school starts."
At least two Aggies who suffered season-ending injuries were back playing basketball this summer. Medlin, the team's top scoring and deep-shooting threat, regained his strength and flexibility in his wrist enough to stand out again in summer sessions.
Danny Berger was also cleared for the summer after suffering cardiac arrest in December, and Morrill noted that the forward has gained weight and strength: "The definition in his arms and body has been very noticeable."
But Spencer Butterfield, who took on a leadership role after the team's devastating injuries, has been restricted since his hip surgery this spring. Although he should be cleared by the start of school, Butterfield's hip probably won't be fully healed next season.
"It's probably going to be a nagging problem next year," Morrill said. "He had the surgery so they could do what they could, but it's not necessarily a fixable situation. But he's a very tough kid, and he should be mostly better when it comes time to play."
Two other injured players, Sean Harris (ACL tear) and Viko Noma'aea (knee), were limited for summer workouts. Morrill said he's continuing to monitor their health.
Aggies release non-conference schedule
The Aggies won't be leaving the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum much at all during their nonconference schedule, released Thursday by the team.
USC, Mississippi State, Weber State and BYU should provide stiff challenges early on for Utah State. But the Aggies will play only three games on the road in their first dozen games, only one of which is outside the state.
The team, which struggled to a 21-10 record last season after injury setbacks, will play outside Utah on Nov. 16 against UC Santa Barbara. It will host most other opponents in the Spectrum.
But despite few tough road contests, the Aggies will have their hands full in the first month of the season. The USC Trojans, under new head coach Andy Enfield, will open the year, followed by visits from Southern Utah and Mississippi State.
The thorniest patch of the nonconference schedule will likely come at Weber State on Nov. 26, followed by a neutral court game versus BYU at Energy Solutions Arena only four days later.
From then until the start of Mountain West play, the Aggies won't have to leave home. They'll face Pacific, Utah Valley and San Diego Christian to round out the schedule.
Utah State will also host another tournament, the Basketball Travelers Classic, featuring UC Santa Barbara, Troy and a team yet to be named. The tournament runs from Dec. 19-21.
2013 nonconference schedule
All times MT
Oct. 25 • vs. Central Methodist, 7:05 p.m. (Ex.)
Nov. 1 • vs. Adams State, 7:05 p.m (Ex.)
Nov. 8 • vs. USC, 7:05 p.m.
Nov. 12 • vs. Southern Utah, 7:05 p.m.
Nov. 16 • at UC Santa Barbara, TBA
Nov. 23 • vs. Mississippi State, 7:05 p.m.
Nov. 26 • at Weber State, TBA
Nov. 30 • vs. BYU (at EnergySolutions Arena),7 p.m.
Dec. 7 • vs. Pacific,7:05 p.m.
Dec. 14 • vs. Utah Valley, 7:05 p.m.
Dec. 19 • vs. TBA,8:05 p.m.
Dec. 20 • vs. UC Santa Barbara, 8:05 p.m.
Dec. 21 • vs. Troy,8:05 p.m.
Dec. 28 • vs. San Diego Christian, 7:05 p.m.