Aggie men picked to repeat as WAC champs

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Press releaseLOGAN -- Utah State's men's basketball team is picked to repeat as Western Athletic Conference champions according to both the league's coaches and media as the WAC announced its preseason polls Tuesday.

Utah State received eight first-place votes and 64 points in the coaches poll, while Nevada received one first-place vote and 53 points. New Mexico State received 50 points and was picked to finish third, followed by Idaho (42), Louisiana Tech (31), Fresno State (30), Boise State (23), San Jose State (19) and Hawai'i (12).

In the media poll, Utah State garnered 15 first-place votes and 273 points, while Nevada was second with 269 points and 12 first-place votes. New Mexico State, who received 226 points and six first-place votes was picked third, while Idaho (193) and Boise State (145) rounded out the top five. Louisiana Tech (140) was picked sixth, followed by Fresno State (130), San Jose State (88) and Hawai'i (66). The Spartans also received one first-place vote in the media poll.

"In all the years I've been a head coach, I can't ever remember where preseason predictions have helped us win any games," said USU head coach Stew Morrill. "These preseason polls are more a reflection on your past and what happened last year, and we haven¹t done anything yet this season.

"We all have pressures in Division I Athletics, and if you have a good program you are trying to stay at a high level. Pressure is something we have gotten used to at Utah State and have learned to live with."

Utah State returns four starters and seven letterwinners from last year's team that set a school record for wins as it went 30-5 overall and claimed its second-straight WAC regular season championship with a 14-2 league mark. USU also won its first-ever WAC Tournament Championship and advanced to its 18th NCAA Tournament all-time, including its sixth in the last 10 years under Morrill as it lost to Marquette, 58-57, in the first round.

Among those returning for Utah State is senior guard Jared Quayle who earned second-team all-WAC honors and was named to the league's all-newcomer team as a junior as he averaged 13.1 points, 6.0 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game, while shooting 46.5 percent from the field, 38.8 percent from three-point range and 76.4 percent from the free throw line. Quayle was also named to the WAC's all-tournament team in 2009 and received high major honorable mention All-American honors from He finished the year ranking third in the WAC in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.05), sixth in steals (1.43), sixth in assists, seventh in free throw shooting, 11th in scoring and 12th in rebounding.

Utah State also returns junior forward Tai Wesley who was named to the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) District VI second-team after averaging 12.0 points and 6.0 rebounds, while shooting 59.2 percent from the field and 68.4 percent from the free throw line. He finished the year ranking second in the WAC in field goal shooting and 11th in rebounding. Wesley was also named to the WAC's all-tournament team during his sophomore season.

Along with Quayle and Wesley, Utah State returns two other starters in junior guards Tyler Newbold and Pooh Williams. Newbold averaged 9.0 points and 4.2 rebounds as a sophomore and shot 43.1 percent from the field, 39.5 percent from three-point range and 76.2 percent from the free throw line. Newbold also finished the year leading the nation with an assist-to-turnover ratio of 3.96-to-1.00. Williams averaged 5.9 points and 1.9 rebounds as a sophomore and shot 46.4 percent from the field, 38.5 percent from three-point range and 68.1 percent from the free throw line.

Utah State also returns three reserves from last year's team in junior forward Matt Formisano, sophomore forward Brady Jardine and sophomore guard Jaxon Myaer. Sophomore center Modou Niang is also back for USU after redshirting during the 2009 season.

In all, Utah State's four returning starters have a combined 239 games played while at Utah State including 186 starts, while its four other returnees have a total of 136 games played at USU.

Joining Utah State's eight returnees are seven newcomers, including two junior college transfers from Salt Lake Community College in forward Nate Bendall and guard Brian Green. Bendall actually played 13 games for Utah State as true freshman during the 2005-06 season before playing one year at SLCC. Other newcomers who could see playing time this year include freshmen Anthony DiLoreto, Preston Medlin and Tyrone White.

The WAC's coaches and media also voted for preseason teams heading into the 2009-10 season and Utah State had two players recognized as Quayle was named to the first-team by both the coaches and media, while Wesley was named to the second-team by the coaches.

"Jared and Tai are good players and great kids and I hope we can keep them healthy," Morrill added. "Hopefully they will have good seasons, they certainly have the capabilities to do so."

The coaches preseason first-team consisted of Mac Hopson (Idaho), Armon Johnson (Nevada) Jahmar Young (New Mexico State), Quayle and Luke Babbitt of Nevada who was selected as the preseason player of the year. The second-team had Roderick Flemings (Hawai'i), Paul George (Fresno State), Kyle Gibson (Louisiana Tech), Sylvester Seay (Fresno State), and Wesley.

The media¹s preseason all-conference team included Hopson, Johnson, Quayle and Young, while Babbitt was selected as the league's preseason player of the year and Idaho¹s Steffan Johnson was voted as the WAC's newcomer of the year.

Utah State will hold its annual Blue-White Scrimmage on Wednesday, Oct. 28 at 7 p.m., and its first exhibition game will be on Friday, Oct. 30 against Northwest Nazarene at 7 p.m. USU begins the regular season on Friday, Nov. 13 at Weber State at 7:30 p.m.

(Courtesy of USU)

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