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Nelson is Aggies’ all-around player

His efforts have made several all-time USU lists

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LOGAN — At 6-foot-8, Utah State's Spencer Nelson is an atypical passer, a better than average rebounder and a creative scorer, and he began learning to do all three when he was 5-foot-nothing.

"From elementary school I was one of the bigger kids," said Nelson, named the Deseret Morning News' Athlete of the Month for the month of December. "But I wanted to make sure I could do what the other kids were doing on the court."

Instead of following the perceived stereotype that big kids play under the basket, Nelson chose to do otherwise.

"I've always tried to be an all-around player — a completely balanced player," he said. "Not just a scorer, not just a rebounder, not just a passer."

It's no wonder his name dots several all-time Utah State basketball lists.

He is currently 10th in rebounds with 668, and he needs just nine more to move into eighth; 18th in assists and needs just 16 more to move up a notch; and seventh in blocks and stands just four shy of fifth.

Also, Nelson, a second-team all-Big West Conference selection last year, is 18 points away from becoming the 30th Aggie all-time to score 1,000 points in a career. He'll most likely reach that plateau this weekend when the Aggies visit Pacific on Thursday and Northridge Saturday.

When he reaches that mark, he'll be only the fourth player in Utah State history with 1,000 points, 650 rebounds and 200 assists.

"I would hate to become a one-dimensional player or a two-dimensional player," he said.

After 14 games this year, Nelson is first or second on the team in eight statistical categories: 15.1 points (second), 60.4 percent shooting (second), 78.7 percent free throws (second), 8.6 rebounds (first), 4.6 assists (first), eight blocks (tied first) and 14 steals (tied second).

"He's consistently improved every year," Utah State coach Stew Morrill said. "He's gotten better and better, and we try to utilize his talents as best we can."

On even a more magnified level, Nelson averaged 18.4 points, 8.9 rebounds and 4.8 rebounds in leading the Aggies to a 6-2 record in December. Four wins were over BYU (twice), Utah and Weber State, and the other two wins came in the Aggies' 11th annual Gossner Foods Classic.

In those games, he had four double-doubles (he has five for the year), including a career-high 26 points in the Aggies' second win over BYU. He also had 11 rebounds in that game. He was named co-Big West Conference player of the week for his performance.

Speaking of the aforementioned schools, Nelson, a Pocatello, Idaho, native, went 9-4 against them during his career.

"It's fun to know on a personal basis that you have the edge against them," Nelson said. "For the four years you were there you got the better of the state of Utah."

For the year, he has scored in double-figures 12 times (11 straight at one point). Dating back to 2003-04, he has accomplished that feat 18 of his last 21 games. For his career, he has 17 double-doubles.

Nelson, 24, has taken the same multi-dimensional approach off the court as a student. He graduated last May with a double major in accounting and finance with a minor in economics. He is working on an MBA. Last summer, he worked as an intern at Citigroup just blocks away from Ground Zero in Manhattan.

Nelson will ride the basketball gravy train as far as it will take him. He plans to pursue basketball options not only in the United States but Australia, Europe and Asia.

"I love to play basketball, and I am hoping opportunities will present (themselves)," he said. "If that's not in the cards, I'll go back to New York and work in investment banking."

Spencer Nelson

Utah State basketball

6-8, 225 pounds, senior

Position: Forward

Hometown: Pocatello, Idaho

December highlights

Led the Aggies to a 4-0 record vs. in-state teams

Recorded four of his five double-doubles

Scored a career-high 26 points against BYU in Provo

Led or tied in assists in seven of the eight games

2004 Deseret Morning News Athletes of the Month

January — Nate Harris, Utah State basketball

February — Mark Bigelow, BYU basketball

March — Andrei Kirilenko, Utah Jazz

April — Melissa Vituj, Utah gymnastics

May — Carlos Moreno, BYU volleyball

June — Annie Thurman, USA Curtis Cup golf team

July — Teren & Emily Jameson, 10K winners in July 24 road races

August — Cael Sanderson, Olympic champion wrestler

September — Alex Smith, Utah football

October — Matt Payne, BYU football

November — Morgan Scalley, Utah football

December — Spencer Nelson, Utah State basketball

E-mail: jhinton@desnews.com