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With most of the college basketball world beginning practices last Wednesday, the Aggies are taking a different approach.

Utah State elected to go with skill workouts and small groups on Wednesday — the first day the NCAA allowed schools to start practicing and preparing for the 2020-21 season. The Aggies spent the rest of the week doing similar workouts. They will begin full team practices at the start of this upcoming week.

Teams are allowed to start playing games on Nov. 25. While USU has released its Mountain West Conference schedule, the non-league opponents have not been officially released. That is a still a work in progress as schools are trying to piece together schedules after the later starting date was announced by the NCAA.

The Aggies hope to release the entire schedule soon, but have not said when that would be. Usually the basketball season begins near the beginning of November.

USU begins league play on Dec. 29, at Air Force. The Aggies first home MW game is Jan. 2, when Fresno State visits the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum.

Since joining the Mountain West, USU is 60-48. Over the last two years under head coach Craig Smith, the Aggies are 27-9 in league play. They shared the regular season title in 2019 and have won the MW Tournament the last two seasons. Winning back-to-back conference tournament titles has only been accomplished four times in league history.

Utah State returns three starters and seven letterwinners from a team that went 26-8 last season. Junior center Neemias Queta, junior forward Justin Bean and junior wing Brock Miller are back.

Both Queta and Bean were named to the MW All-Defensive Team during the 2019-20 campaign and will combine to form one of the most formidable front courts in the conference. Bean, a third-team all-MW selection last season, is the only returning player in the Mountain West who averaged a double-double last year, with 11.9 points and 10.5 rebounds per game.

Queta, the 2019 MW Freshman and Defensive Player of the Year, returns completely healthy after an injury slowed his 2019-20 campaign. Despite missing 12 games, Queta averaged 13.0 points and 7.8 rebounds an outing. Queta led the Aggies and the MW with 1.7 blocks per game en route to earning second-team all-Mountain West and Mountain West all-tournament team honors.

Miller played in all 34 games last season, starting 29. He averaged 8.4 points, 2.3 rebounds and 1.0 assists per contest. He made 61 3-pointers on the season, second on the team.

Also back are senior forward Alphonso Anderson, sophomore guard Sean Bairstow, senior center Kuba Karwowski and sophomore center Trevin Dorius. Anderson played in all 34 games, starting four. He averaged 8.1 points, 3.7 rebounds and 1.0 assists a game.

Karwowski started seven games when Queta was out, but then had an appendectomy and ended up playing in 15 contest. Dorius started three games and played in 25.

Shawn Harrison is the sports editor at The Herald Journal. He can be reached at sharrison@hjnews.com or 435-792-7233.

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