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Utah State, UNLV basketball programs have little common ground in recruiting

Published July 12, 2013 2:32 pm
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

There's no doubt Utah State's athletic programs have some challenges ahead as they get into the Mountain West era.

An ESPN piece on conference realignment quoted Stew Morrill, who offered some thoughts on the geographic sensibility and recruiting perks of the conference. But then there's an odd wrinkle:

But Utah State was a powerhouse in the WAC. And now the Aggies are positioned in a fortified conference that features five teams that earned NCAA tourney bids last season.

And although Logan has a certain appeal, Morrill recognizes that it might not surpass San Diego State's beaches and UNLV's nightlife in the eyes of potential recruits.

"If a kid visits Vegas and a kid visits Utah, obviously we've got our work cut out for us to impress upon him the differences in the quality of a college town," he said.

My immediate thought: "Which recruits do Utah State and UNLV have in common?"

There's no doubt that Utah State will cross paths with a lot of Mountain West schools on the recruiting trail. But those schools are more likely to be programs like Boise State, Nevada, New Mexico and Colorado State. The Aggies are defined by their college town, tight-knit atmosphere and structured way of playing the game.

In that sense, UNLV lands on the opposite end of the spectrum. Dave Rice has cultivated a fast-paced, less concrete style in the tradition of the Runnin' Rebels. And Logan and Las Vegas could probably not be more different as college environments, even though both fan bases are passionate.

It's not a matter of one being better than the other, but how different they are. Isn't it hard to imagine a recruit narrowing down his schools to Utah State and UNLV?

Guess how a freshman volume shooter like Katin Reinhardt (who admittedly transferred from the program, but not because he wasn't wanted) would be received by Stew Morrill.

The two programs do occasionally overlap when it comes to junior college players, but those close to the program will tell you there isn't much crossover when it comes to the type of athlete they recruit. Different values, different strengths, and often different regions separate the two schools.

Utah State will be looking for a higher caliber of player in the Mountain West, and maybe even the same caliber of player that UNLV recruits. But don't expect them to butt heads too much over the same guy. And if they do, that would be an sign that Utah State might be looking for new ways to adapt to the Mountain West

But it's not exactly as if Morrill and company are trying to talk kids out of coming to the big city or even the beaches of San Diego. Utah State's sales pitch works best with recruits who are looking for a tight-knit atmosphere and who want to be coached a certain way.

Speaking of recruiting, the Aggie coaching staff is spread across the country looking at recruits. The only 2014 commit at the moment is Bountiful's Sam Merrill, who really isn't coming until after he serves his LDS Church mission.

That means Utah State is looking to sign some talent to replace the five seniors in the program: Preston Medlin, Spencer Butterfield, TeNale Roland, Sean Harris and Jarred Shaw. There's clearly some urgency at shooting guard, where the Aggies will lose two of their best players following the 2014 season. The front court, particularly at power forward, could also use another body.

Utah State has a number of offers floating out, including several to 2014 and 2015 in-state prospects. But the summer evaluation periods will give the staff more chances to see new players and reevaluate the ones they've seen over the years.

— Kyle Goonkgoon@sltrib.comTwitter: @kylegoon




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