Logan • When money was tight — and it often was — a young Koby McEwen had a choice to make.
Or take the bus?
“Every day, I had $3 to spend. It was all my lunch money,” he recalls. “I didn’t eat lunch.”
Instead, McEwen promised himself that sacrifice and dedication would ultimately pay off, and so spent his daily allowance on the long ride to get himself across Toronto to basketball practice. Maybe that’s why the Utah State point guard is still so hungry.
McEwen is the Mountain West Conference’s reigning freshman of the year, the leader of a young Aggie squad, and an all-conference preseason selection this year. But the 20-year-old sophomore still wants more.
“If I stay all four years, I really think I’ll be the leading scorer,” he said during an interview last month inside the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum. “Really, I don’t want to be arrogant about it. But I just think with the work I’ve put in and the competition we’re playing now compared to back then … I feel like I can be the best player to come through this school if I play here all four years.”
Utah State at Weber State
When • Friday, 7 p.m.
The sophomore still has a long ways to go before he could ever catch up to Wayne Estes (2,001), Greg Grant (2,127) and Jaycee Carroll (2,522). Those Aggie greats, however, are the targets USU coach Tim Duryea wants McEwen to set his sights on.
“I don’t try to temper that at all,” the coach said. “I think that’s what drives a guy like Koby and those are obviously huge aspirations.”
As a freshman, McEwen averaged 14.9 points, 5.1 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game for USU. With the graduation of last year’s leading scorer, Jalen Moore, McEwen will be expected to shoulder an even bigger load now. But that is one of the reasons why McEwen, the first top-100 recruit to ever sign with the Aggies, chose to come to Logan in the first place.
He held offers from bigger schools. During a visit to Wake Forest, he was greeted by NBA stars Tim Duncan and Chris Paul, who hoped to land his commitment. It didn’t work.
“That stuff doesn’t really impress me,” he said. “I looked at myself and said I’m an NBA guy too.”
Instead, he found himself more drawn to C.J. McCollum, Damian Lillard, Paul George and Stephen Curry — players who went to smaller schools and still made their way to the NBA.
“If they can do it, why can’t I do it? I know I have to play to impress. I knew I could come here and play right away,” he said.
McEwen has had success playing giant slayer before. At Wasatch Academy, in tiny Mt. Pleasant, Utah, the guard helped take down some of the best teams in the nation.
“He wants to be the best,” said Wasatch Academy coach Curtis Condie, who often had to wake early to let McEwen into the school’s gym. “If he had to play his grandmother, he’d want to beat her 100 to nothing if he could. He’s just so competitive in everything he does.”
Throughout the summer, McEwen’s focus has been on helping the Aggies improve on last year’s 14-17 record. McEwen spent months back home in Toronto working out, sometimes three times a day, trying to improve his jump shot and add to his mid-range arsenal.
“Nobody in our program works harder than Koby,” Duryea said.
And nobody, McEwen said, wants it more.
“I think we’re going to surprise a lot of people,” he said. “They’re going to look at us on paper and say we’re small as hell. But they’re not going to be ready for how tenacious and how hungry we’re going to be.”