Basketball comings and goings

When Stephen Rogers decided to sign with BYU instead instead of Utah State it set in motion a Plan B Stew Morrill had designed long before he knew if the hot-shooting small forward would be an Aggie or a Cougar.

Rogers would have been the fifth new recruit to join Morrill’s Aggies. Jared Quayle, however, is the only senior on the team and even four newcomers presents a bit of a mathematical problem when it comes to Utah State’s scholarship count.

That means somebody on the roster will not be on the roster when the season tips off next season.

A source close to the USU basketball team told the Deseret News on Friday Modou Niang and Tyrone White would be transferring. White, the source said, would probably transfer to a junior college while Niang, if he wants to continue playing basketball, would need to transfer to a Division II, Division III or NAIA school to begin playing without losing a season of eligibility.

“We’ll try to help them find a new school,” the source said. “We like them both, but we needed to move in a different direction.”

White was a rarely-used small forward forced into action early in the season because of Pooh Williams’ stress-fracture injury. Once Williams returned to the team, White found himself in the game only a few times and when he was there he struggled — making only 5 of 18 shots (27.8 percent) and all seven of the 3-point shots he attempted.

Niang, on the other hand, was exactly the type of physical athlete the Aggies have needed. At 6-foot-10, Niang was a shot-altering presence inside and actually 61.8 percent from the floor. But his skills were raw from the moment he arrived in Logan from a Japanese high school by way of Senegal. Those skills did not develop the way Morrill wanted them to and rather than spend another two years working on a project player — Modou has been with USU for three years including a redshirt season — and Utah State decided it in the best interest of the program and the player to move on.

With those two departures, here’s what the 2010-11 Aggie roster will probably look like.

Tai Wesley, PF, senior
Nate Bendall, C, senior
Tyler Newbold, G, senior
Pooh Williams, G, senior
Brian Green, G, senior
Matt Formisano, F, senior
Brady Jardine, F, junior
Jaxon Myaer, G, junior
Preston Medlin, G, sophomore

Those are the players expected to return. Medlin will redshirt unless needed because of an injury to another key wing player. That’s nine players back, including four senior starters and two seniors coming off the bench. Here’s what USU fans can expect to see in terms of fresh faces.

Morgan Grim, F, junior
Brockeith Pane, G, junior
Antonio Bumpus, G, junior
Anthony DiLoreto, C, freshman
James Walker, G, freshman
Ben Clifford, F, freshman

That adds up to 15. NCAA guidelines say Division I basketball teams are allowed only 13 scholarship players and there will still be a minor amount of roster moves to make. Bumpus and Clifford are probable redshirt players next season.

Grim was a walk-on practice player at USU this past season after transferring from Utah. He’ll likely remain a walk-on, giving Utah State 14 scholarship players.

That leaves a few possibilities to consider.

One, Formisano an all-WAC academic player, graduates. He’s been a solid backup but isn’t likely to crack the rotation much this season with the emergence of Jardine as one of the WAC’s best athletes.

DiLoreto, who had a citation for posession of marijuana during the season and came to USU with one very large strike already against him after his involvement with an attempted bank robbery in Wisconsin, was suspended indefinitely from team activities at the time, but has rejoined the team for functions after the season ended. One more slip up, however, could end his run as an Aggie before it officially begins.

Then there is the possibility of Bumpus or Clifford postponing their enrollment to the winter semester and grayshirting. With both players anticipated to redshirt, it may be a serious consideration to have one player hold off on full-time enrollment. Of the two, Clifford — a local Bingham High product — may be the best bet.

But with six seniors on next year’s roster, the recruiting process of this past season may look like a piece of cake compared to next year.

Here’s what we know is coming.

Jordan Stone, a Sky View High center that has reportedly grown an inch or two to 7-0 while on his LDS mission, will return in time to enroll for winter semester but will not be a part of the team in an official capacity until the 2011-12 season.

Danny Berger, a 6-7 shooting guard who spent a season at Chemeteka Community College in Oregon before leaving for an LDS misison, will also return to join USU for the 2011-12 season.

Another player, 6-5 swingman Steven Thornton from Stoneridge Prep in California, will be an Aggie as well. A source at USU said Thornton would sit out the coming season and pay his own way to attend USU then join the team in time for the 2011-12 season.

That leaves another three spots to fill and even with Stone and DiLoreto on board, don’t be surprised if Morrill tries to replace Wesley and Bendall with a game-ready post player from a junior college.

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