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SLCC pipeline to Logan has enriched Utah State Aggies

LOGAN, Utah — Every coach likes to have fertile ground to find recruits.

And

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.

__IMAGE1__The

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.

"When

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

great experience."

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.

Starting

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

offense.

"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.

During

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.

"That

all worked out," Morrill said, noting he was taking a chance that

Bendall would develop as expected but also be recruited by other

schools.

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.

"If

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."

In

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.

Though

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.

Generously

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.

In

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

measure.

Morrill said he can't recall a player having as long a run of hot-shooting as Green is enjoying.

"Not

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

conference season."

Bendall, likewise, has been a tremendous addition to the Aggies' roster this year.

He's

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.

Morrill

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.

One

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.


E-mail: jeborn@desnews.com