LOGAN, Utah — Every coach likes to have fertile ground to find recruits.
for Utah State men's basketball coach Stew Morrill, Salt Lake Community
College is not just a place where star players are found — it's where
they are developed.
"There's a nice
connection there," Morrill said. "I kidded (SLCC coach Norm Parrish)
for a number of years that we're not getting a lot of their guys. Then
it started happening."
And amazing results followed.
most notable recruit to make the jump from the Bruins' Taylorsville
campus to Logan was Gary Wilkinson. He was nothing short of spectacular
as an Aggie, leading USU to back-to-back regular-season titles in the
Western Athletic Conference while earning league MVP honors as a senior.
we recruited Gary, we told him this was a 'no brainer.' You can stay
in-state," Morrill said, "and play in front of your family and have a
This year, USU has a pair of Bruins on the roster.
And they'll lead the Aggies into a huge WAC battle tonight against Nevada.
center Nate Bendall is back in the Aggie fold while Brian Green is one
of the best bench players in the WAC and an emotional sparkplug on
"I'm glad to be back," said
Bendall, who played a year at Utah State as a freshman but left the
team for an LDS mission and then resumed his hoops career at SLCC.
"It's something I was familiar with and wasn't a hard decision to make."
But it was a decision that he could have made differently.
his freshman year, Bendall averaged 2.4 points and 1.5 rebounds in 13
games with the Aggies. Though a solid 6-foot-9 player, his skillset
wasn't necessarily where it needed to be and the Aggies had a lot of
players on the roster that figured to get more playing time.
So Morrill found the talented, but raw, player a home at SLCC.
all worked out," Morrill said, noting he was taking a chance that
Bendall would develop as expected but also be recruited by other
The reciprocal relationship
between Division I and junior college coaches has long been understood.
And Morrill is grateful for it as he believes it can help both programs
as well as the players involved.
we can get a guy out of your program, we'll try to place a guy with
you," Morrill said of the way coaches work together. "And if he
develops, we'll try to take him back."
the case of Green, Utah State didn't place the former Davis Dart, but
because of the relationship Parrish and Morrill have, the Aggies took
an extra look at a player most coaches thought was too small, too slow
and had limited upside.
"I watched him play and said 'I'll take him,' " Morrill recalled. "He's the type of player you love to have on your team."
And Green has responded well.
he had a pretty rough start to the season as he adjusted to the faster
pace and bigger opponents, he's come on strong over the past four weeks.
listed as 6-1, but actually standing 5-11, Green is one of the smaller
shooting guards in the WAC. Still, he is a tenacious competitor and
vocal leader when on the floor.
He's not a bad shooter, either.
WAC games, Green has made 19 of his 26 3-point attempts — that's 73
percent for opposing coaches who might want to consider not playing
zone against the Aggies — and is making 66.7 percent of all his shots.
His scoring has jumped to 10.3 points per WAC game and he is handing
out a pair of assists and grabbing two rebounds per game for good
Morrill said he can't recall a player having as long a run of hot-shooting as Green is enjoying.
that I can remember," Morrill said. "Not that my memory is what it was,
but I don't remember a guy shooting in the 70s nine games into the
Bendall, likewise, has been a tremendous addition to the Aggies' roster this year.
rebounded from a slow stretch following early-season heart surgery and
is now averaging 9.9 points and 4.6 rebounds per game in WAC play while
shooting better than 60 percent from the floor.
said he certainly doesn't have an exclusive arrangement with the
national powerhouse on Redwood Road, but is thrilled to have a friendly
relationship with the Bruins that has brought three top-notch players
to Logan in the past few years.
That USU-SLCC connection is not limited to basketball for Parrish, though.
of the first recruits Aggie football coach Gary Andersen secured after
he arrived in Logan was a linebacker named Travis Parrish — the SLCC
coach's son — from Bountiful High.