He may have been the last player taken in the 2020 NBA Draft, but that really doesn’t matter as he will be getting a championship ring.
Former Utah State guard Sam Merrill is a member of the NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks team. The Bucks wrapped up the 2021 NBA title Wednesday night with a 105-98 victory against the Phoenix Suns in Game 6. Milwaukee won the best-of-seven series, 4-2.
Merrill becomes the first Aggie player in school history to be on a team that is the NBA champion. Marvin Roberts played on the Kentucky Colonels team in 1975 that won an ABA title.
The rookie was drafted by the New Orleans Pelicans in the second and final round last November. The selection by the Pelicans was actually for Milwaukee, who had traded their first-round pick to New Orleans for two second-round choices. He was the first USU player to be drafted in more than three decades.
The Aggie great — second in career scoring (2,197 points) and assists (477) — signed a two-year deal with the Bucks. He appeared in 30 regular season games with Milwaukee. NBA teams played 72 games during the 2020-21 season.
Desmond Penigar was the last Aggie to play in the NBA as he saw action in 10 games in 2004 with the Orlando Magic.
Merrill averaged 7.8 minutes, 3.0 points, 1.0 rebounds, 0.7 assists and 0.3 steals a game in those 30 regular season contests. He shot 44.4 percent from the field, 44.7 percent from 3-point range and 100 percent from the free throw line during the regular season.
At one point during the season he was given the opportunity to go and play in the G League. Since Milwaukee’s G League team did not compete this year, Merrill went on loan to the Memphis Hustle for five games. During that stretch he averaged 11.2 points, 4.4 rebounds and 3.4 assists an outing.
When it came playoff time, No. 15 saw action in eight of the Bucks 23 playoff games. He averaged 3.8 minutes, 0.6 points, 0.6 rebounds, 0.1 assists and 0.5 steals in those eight games. During the Finals, Merrill played just over a minute in Game 3 — a 120-100 Bucks’ win. He did not dress for Game 5 due to an ankle sprain.
Just like when he was drafted, Merrill received many congratulatory comments on social media Tuesday night and throughout Wednesday from fans, former Aggie teammates and organizations in Utah. Merrill won is from the Beehive State and won a high school state championship at Bountiful before heading north to become a star at USU.
The guards wife, Kanyan Merrill, is a former USU soccer player. She has been posting on social media as well with some popular celebrations.
Next up for Merrill is the NBA Summer League, which starts Aug. 8.