Utah State starts its first day of men’s basketball practice the same time as everybody else.

But when the Aggies hit the court Friday, senior guard Julion Pearre feels the team already will be a major step ahead of its normal pace.

“It almost seems like we’re a month ahead,” Pearre said.

The reason for that is the team’s August trip to Italy, which saw the Aggies play four games. The The team was able to practice together in Logan leading up to the trip, something the Aggies ordinarily wouldn’t be allowed to do.

“Every year, you have new guys coming in,” Pearre said. “It puts us a step forward. We have a better understanding how each other plays.”

The Aggies returned from their Italian tour Aug. 26, two days before fall classes started.

“I hope to see a mentally and physically fresh team that’s a little more experienced than they would be otherwise,” Utah State coach Tim Duryea said. “And a couple of steps ahead in terms of intensity level and the focus you need.

“We’ve gotten over a couple of those hurdles this summer.”

The Aggies missed out on the extra bit of practice that some teams got at the end of last season because they didn’t play in a postseason tournament. Utah State finished 14-16 overall and 7-11 in the Mountain West.

But the NCAA allows 10 days of practice before a foreign trip like the Aggies’ journey.

“We got to spend a lot of time with each other, and that’s the reason why you do a foreign tour,” Duryea said. “That was invaluable to the new guys. The games you play are really the least of the priorities, the way we saw it.”

The Aggies did play some basketball, however, finishing 2-2.

For the new crop of Utah State players, who were allowed to participate even without having previously donned the Aggies’ uniform, the coaching staff was impressed with the play of 6-foot-7 redshirt freshman Daron Henson as well as 6-6 freshman Brock Miller, who just completed a two-year church mission after graduating from Brighton High.

“The style was really different physically than the way they let you play here,” Duryea said. “There’s really no way to simulate that physicality because you can’t coach your guys that way to play at the Division I level. They’d all foul out in the first half.”

The Aggies’ regular season begins Nov. 10 at Weber State.