Hoops: Game 1 afterburn

As expected, Utah State’s game at Weber State in the season opener was a close one. WSU coach Randy Rahe has a very talented team and knows Stew Morrill too well for the Aggies to expect a blow out.

But here’s a few observations and thoughts I had during and after the game.

Utah State has a smart team. The Aggies make few mental mistakes, but they do make them — case in point, Tai Wesley charging around the court swinging his arms wildly trying to block every shot Weber State put up. He had four fouls at the time and the game was very much in doubt. He took himself out of the game with a, I’ll say it, stupid decision.

Tyler Newbold is mature and wise beyond his years. He’ll make a great coach somewhere, someday. Physically strong, Newbold packs a cerebral punch to his game and that’s one reason he led the nation in assist-to-turnover ratio last year. When his shot is falling, he’s the perfect compliment to USU’s typical post-reliant offense.

Nate Bendall will fit in well for the Aggies. He’s knows his game, knows his limits and has a deft touch around the hoop with his jump hook. The junior from Skyline will not be Gary Wilkinson, but USU doesn’t need him to be.

Brian Green is short and can’t jump. He’s not very fast and not an especially good ball handler. So what’s he doing on a Division I basketball team? Balling. The kid is tough as nails, plays hard and hustles. In his first basketball game in years, Green got his first few looks blocked. Instead of sulking or continuing that shot, he adapted and created so good looks and became very valuable down the stretch with his clutch free-throw shooting.

Preston Medlin and Tyrone White will not redshirt this season. But they need some maturing — physically, at least — before they’ll be able to be the factors Morrill expects them to be. A few hundred protein shakes wouldn’t hurt either.

Jared Quayle is Jared Quayle. He scores, he rebounds and he defends. The stat sheet said he had only eight rebounds and three assists. I’m surprised by that. He seemed involved a lot more than that.

The bench play of Matt Formisano, Brady Jardine and Modou Niang will be nice. Formisano will never be an offensive star, but he fits the system perfectly. Jardine is as athletic a player as USU has. He has physical gifts most can only wish for. But he’s not terribly skilled as a shooter or ball handler. His playing time will be limited until he can pick up those skills. Niang is a defensive player. He’s there to give Wesley and Bendall a breather and to disrupt the flow of opposing offenses. Any offensive production from him will be unexpected and a bonus.

This could be a very good season for the Aggies. 30 wins is almost too much to expect in any realistic scenario.

But it’s not out of the question.

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