Why former Aggie great Sam Merrill is optimistic heading into NBA draft

Utah State guard Sam Merrill dribbles against San Diego State Saturday, Jan. 4, 2020, in Logan, Utah. Merrill hopes to hear his name called during the NBA draft on Wednesday night. | AP Photo/Eli Lucer

LOGAN — After being raised on Utah State basketball and then starring for the Aggies the past four years, Sam Merrill is extremely well versed in the history of USU basketball for a 24-year-old.

When asked who was the last Aggie to be selected in the NBA draft, he quickly responded, “It was Greg, right? Greg Grant.”

Like Merrill, Greg Grant was also a returned missionary from the Salt Lake City area who ended up starring for the Aggies. And Grant, who graduated as USU’s all-time leading scorer, ended up being picked by the Detroit Pistons.

But that was 34 years ago. And back in 1986, the NBA draft was comprised of seven rounds, allowing Grant to be selected in the sixth round with 132nd overall pick.

But since 1989, the NBA draft has only gone two rounds deep, and in that time, no Aggie has heard his name called on draft day. And while a handful of players like the Aggies’ all-time leading scorer Jaycee Carroll and hall of famer Spencer Nelson have spent time playing in the NBA’s summer league or in a training camp, the last former USU player to even play in the league was Desmond Penigar, who enjoyed a “cup of coffee” in the NBA back in 2004 courtesy of a 10-day contract with the Orlando Magic.

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So, when the 2020 NBA draft is finally held Wednesday night, Merrill knows that it’s not just him and his family that are hoping he’s selected by a professional organization. His alma mater and Aggie fans also have high hopes for the second-leading scorer in school history.

“It’s definitely something that’s on my mind, and something that I’ve thought about during my time at Utah State. It’s important that you get guys in the league. And for some reason, Utah State’s been a great program, but it just hasn’t been able to do that.” — Sam Merrill

“It’s definitely something that’s on my mind, and something that I’ve thought about during my time at Utah State,” Merrill said. “It’s important that you get guys in the league. And for some reason, Utah State’s been a great program, but it just hasn’t been able to do that where a lot of schools that aren’t as good as Utah State have been able to put guys into the pros.

“So if I do get drafted, it would obviously be the first time in a long time, and that’s certainly important from a recruiting standpoint. It would be awesome for the school, and for me to be able to represent Utah State in that way would be incredible.”

Certainly working in Merrill’s favor is that he ended the 2019-20 season in near-perfect fashion, guiding the Aggies to their second straight Mountain West tourney title in a row last March. …read more

Source:: Deseret News – Sports News

      

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