Utah State basketball’s Justin Bean is the Aggies’ spark plug. He also plays a mean ukulele.

Utah State forward Justin Bean (34) shoots next to Saint Mary's forward Malik Fitts (24) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Moraga, Calif., Friday, Nov. 29, 2019. (AP Photo/Jed Jacobsohn)

Justin Bean is always singing.

Whether it’s in the locker room, in the ice bath, in the car with his friends or teammates, or in his shower, the Utah State forward constantly carries a tune wherever he goes.

After practices or games, he accompanies his singing with playing ukulele, a hobby he picked up about six months ago. He told The Salt Lake Tribune that he plays before bed or after basketball because it calms him down.

“It kind of soothes me,” Bean said.

Bean has since started a YouTube channel where he’s posted two videos of him playing “Imagine” by John Lennon and the often-covered “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” He said more videos are on the horizon for his channel, which has 133 subscribers.

Bean comes from a family of musically talented people. His mother, youngest sister and oldest brother all play piano, one of his older brothers plays guitar, and his other older brother plays ukulele.

Not only that, but every single member of the Bean family can sing. He said they often gather around the piano and sing different arrangements of songs together. He has not taken a single voice lesson, he said.

Bean’s ukulele-playing brother had some influence in him choosing that particular instrument, he said. But his girlfriend, who plays piano and sings as well, may have been the catalyst.

Bean started playing piano when he was 10 years old, but stopped three years later after his teacher moved away. Around the same time, he started getting more involved in basketball, causing piano to fall by the wayside.

So when Bean met his girlfriend and discovered they shared an interest in music, he wanted to find a way for the couple to adequately complement each other in that aspect.

“I knew I didn't want to play piano again because I knew she already had that covered,” Bean said. "So I just wanted to try and play something else. So that's kind of where the inspiration came from. She loves music, plays the piano, so I thought we could do some duets with that.”

Bean said he and his girlfriend have already discussed appearing in a video together on his YouTube channel, most likely when the Aggies basketball season ends.

Bean’s teammates are no strangers to his musical renditions. Some of them might get annoyed at times, he said, but he also gets the sense that others enjoy that side of him.

One of those players is senior guard Sam Merrill. While Merrill may tell people he “can’t hold a tune to save his life,” Bean insists that isn’t the case.

“We've jammed out to ‘Lion King’ [song] ‘Hakuna Matata’ before,” Bean said of signing duets with Merrill. “He’s got a good voice. He'll sing the melody, I'll sing the harmony, kind of shake it up. It sounds really good. I'm not going to lie. I think it's the acoustics in the locker room.”

However, Bean did not sound confident about the possibility of Merrill appearing in a YouTube video. The same goes for the rest of his teammates.

“They've kind of joked about it before,” Bean said. “They've said, ‘Yeah Bean, we need to do a collab or a duet.' But none of them would ever take me up on it, I'm afraid.”

One of the team’s managers, Ryan Corbett, is Bean’s roommate. He said he has not been inclined to care much about music or singing, but that’s changed since he’s lived with Bean for the last two and a half years.

And no matter what is going on with the Aggies — even their recent three-game losing streak — Bean has the same sunny disposition.

“He doesn’t try to take the results of the team to a personal level,” Corbett said. “Obviously he’s always trying to improve and work on his game and stuff. I would say the best way I can describe Justin is someone who just doesn’t cry over spilled milk.”

Bean practices ukulele about 30 minutes a day during the week and an hour on weekends, he said. He anticipates playing much more over the summer. For now, though, he just plays and sings for fun.

When Bean started his YouTube channel, he thought mostly family would follow along. But he’s been humbled by the attention it’s gotten outside those close circles.

“I saw maybe 20, 30 [subscribers] and I saw half of that being family and extended family,” Bean said. “So yeah it’s pretty awesome, honestly. I definitely want to keep them happy and keep them interested. So I definitely need to post some more videos here soon.”


When • Saturday, 8 p.m. MST


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