These 2 BYU, Utah State alums just won an NBA title with the Milwaukee Bucks

Milwaukee Bucks' Sam Merrill dribbles during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Charlotte Hornets Friday, April 9, 2021, in Milwaukee.

Milwaukee Bucks' Sam Merrill dribbles during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Charlotte Hornets Friday, April 9, 2021, in Milwaukee. (Morry Gash, Associated Press)



AROUND THE LEAGUE — The Milwaukee Bucks' first NBA championship since 1971 will be remembered for Giannis Antetokounmpo — "the Greek Freak" — willing his team to a historic title.

And there's no denying the impact of Antetokounmpo, who poured in 50 points, 14 rebounds and five blocks to rally the Bucks by Phoenix at home.

But everyone on the roster gets a ring, including a former Utah State standout who was the last pick in the most recent NBA draft, and a late-season addition from BYU who starred overseas in Israel.

With the Bucks' 105-98 win over the Phoenix Suns in Game 6, former Utah State star Sam Merrill became the first Aggie alum to win a championship since Marv Roberts won the ABA title with the Kentucky Colonels in 1975, and BYU wing Elijah Bryant became the first Cougar grad to win an NBA title since Danny Ainge helped the Boston Celtics to championships in 1984 and 1986.

Among Ainge's teammates on those two title-clinching teams was BYU alum Greg Kite.

Merrill made history for Aggies in the NBA, a group that has produced eight players since the 1946-47 season, according to RealGM. Bryant broke a significant drought as well, as he was already the first BYU product to advance to the NBA Finals since Ainge led the Suns to the 1993 final series.

Bryant played in the final minute of the Bucks' 118-108 Game 2 loss to the Suns, his only playing time in the seven-game series. Merrill played 1:18 in the Bucks' 120-100 win in Game 3, but likewise did not register any statistics.

Merrill was the No. 60 overall pick in the 2020 NBA draft last summer before spending time in the G League bubble. He returned to average 3.0 points, 1.0 rebounds and 0.7 assists in 7.8 minutes across 30 games for the Bucks during the season.

In eight postseason games, the Bountiful High alum and two-time Mountain West Tournament champ averaged 0.6 points, 0.6 rebounds and 0.5 steals in 3.7 minutes per contest. He missed Game 4 and Game 5 of the Finals with an ankle injury, but didn't see much time in head coach Mike Budenholzer's rotation during the latter stages of the playoffs.

Bryant left BYU early to sign with Hapoel Eilat in Israel ahead of the 2018-19 season. He then moved to Israeli powerhouse Maccabi Tel Aviv for two seasons, appearing in 100 games and averaging 10.89 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.2 assists on 47.7% shooting in 2020-21 before the Bucks signed the 26 year old to a two-year contract in mid-May.

In his lone regular-season game with the Bucks, Bryant poured in 16 points on 46% shooting to go with six rebounds and three assists. The 6-foot-5, 210-pound wing averaged 1.3 points and 1.1 rebounds in 4.5 minutes in 11 postseason games.

Along the way, he's posted about his experience as a rookie on his personal vlog, which has over 2,000 subscribers on YouTube. In addition to his vlog about Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals, Bryant also recently took over the Bucks' TikTok account for a "day in the life" of the rookie in his first NBA Finals appearance.

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