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Some more international flavor has been added to the Utah State men’s basketball roster.

The Aggie backcourt continues to get more crowded as a guard from Russia officially signed on Monday. USU head coach Craig Smith made the announcement that 6-foot-6 athlete Zahar Vedischev will join the team for the 2020-21 season as a freshman.

The battle to replace three veterans is sure to be intense when practices begin. Gone are all-league guard Sam Merrill and sixth-man Diogo Brito, who both graduated. Two-year starter Able Porter also graduated, but has one more year of eligibility and transferred to Ohio State.

Vedischev will be competing with seven guards already in the program for playing time. Junior Brock Miller is a two-year starter with 64 starts under his belt. Marco Anthony sat out last year after transferring from national champion Virginia and will be a junior. Sophomore Sean Bairstow saw action in 32 games last season as a true freshman off the bench and averaged nearly 12 minutes a game. Rollie Worster, Steve Ashworth, Max Shulga and Karson Stastny are incoming freshmen.

“We are thrilled to announce that Z will be joining the Aggie family,” Smith said. “Z is a skilled guard with excellent size at 6-6. Although just a freshman, he brings a wealth of quality experience to our program.”

Vedischev recently excelled on the international stage, playing for his native Russia in the U19 World Basketball Championships in Greece during the summer of 2019. He finished the tournament ranked 10th in scoring as he averaged 16.5 points per game and scored 22 or more points in each of his final three games.

The Russian was especially potent against the United States in the quarterfinals, scoring a team-high 24 points and shooting 53.3 percent (8 of 15) from the floor and 55.6 percent (5 of 9) from behind the 3-point line. Vedischev then turned in the first of back-to-back 22-point performances in the very next game against Serbia, shooting 50 percent (8 of 16) from the floor and a scorching 66.7 percent (6 of 9) from downtown, while also adding nine assists.

Over the course of the tournament, Vedischev shot 41.5 percent from the floor, 40.4 percent from behind the 3-point line and 83.3 percent at the free throw line. In addition to his 16.5 points per game, he also chipped in with 3.2 assists and 2.8 rebounds in each contest. His strong showing at the tournament lead to him being named to an impressive Top 5 players list that also included University of South Carolina’s AJ Lawson (Canada), Iowa State’s Tyrese Haliburton (U.S.A.) and Gonzaga-bound Julian Strawther (Puerto Rico).

Vedischev has played each of the last two seasons for PBC Lokomotiv Kuban-2 in Krasnodar, Russia, averaging 28.5 points, 5.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game.

He was one of Lokomotiv’s top perimeter threats, connecting on 37 percent of his shots from long range and making 5.5 3-point baskets per game. He was also incredibly accurate at the free throw line, shooting 91.7 percent from the charity stripe.

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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