Aggie basketball fans had to stay up late Wednesday night to see some history made.
Most people who commented on social media didn’t seem to mind as they got to witness Sam Merrill have his name called in the 2020 NBA Draft just before 10:30 p.m.
The former Utah State guard was taken with the final pick at No. 60 by the New Orleans Pelicans in the second and final round of the draft. The selection by the Pelicans was actually for the Milwaukee Bucks, who traded their first round pick to New Orleans for two second-round choices.
Merrill is the first Aggie to be drafted in more than three decades — and there were more rounds back then. Greg Grant went to the Detroit Pistons in the sixth round of the 1986 draft. The last Aggie to go in the first two rounds was Brian Jackson in 1981.
It also looks like Merrill will end another drought and make an NBA roster. The last former USU player to do that was Desmond Penigar in 2004, when he played 10 games with the Orlando Magic.
“Former Utah State star Sam Merrill has signed a two year deal with the Milwaukee Bucks, League Sources tell The Athletic,” Tony Jones tweeted shortly after the NBA Draft concluded Wednesday night. “1.5 years are guaranteed, $1.4 million guaranteed. The former Bountiful High star has officially made the NBA.”
Throughout the late hours of Wednesday into Thursday, Merrill received congratulatory comments on social media from teammates, fans and coaches.
“I am now the biggest Bucks fan on earth #FeartheDeer,” tweeted Abel Porter Jr., a former Aggie guard and teammate of Merrill.
The 6-foot-5 guard joins a team that won the Eastern Conference last season and has a two-time NBA MVP in Giannis Antetokounmpa. The NBA season is scheduled to begin on Dec. 22.
The Bucks drafted Louisville forward Jordan Nwora with their other second-round pick at No. 45. NBA analysts credited Milwaukee with improving its shooting by drafting Merrill and Nwora.
As a senior last season, Merrill averaged 19.7 points, 4.1 rebounds and 3.9 assists an outing. The 24-year-old hit the game-winning 3-point shot in the Mountain West Conference Tournament last March, earning MVP honors of the tournament for the second straight season.
Merrill was the last of four players from the Mountain West drafted. That matches the most ever in one year from the league, with the last time happening in 2013.
San Diego State’s Malachi Flynn was first, going in the first round at No. 29 to Toronto. Boise State’s Justinian Jessup was next at No. 51 to Golden State. Just before Merrill had his name called, Nevada’s Jalen Harris went at No. 59 to Toronto.
Merrill left USU second on the career scoring list (2,197 points) and second on the career assist list (477).
With former USU quarterback Jordan Love being drafted in the first round by the Green Bay Packers in the 2020 NFL Draft, Merrill’s selection marks the first time since the 1968 season that an Aggie has been selected in either the first or second round of each draft in the same calendar year. The previous instance for USU included Shaler Halimon, who was the 14th pick of the Philadelphia 76ers during the first round of the 1968 NBA Draft, and MacArthur Lane was the 13th pick for the Cardinals in the first round of the 1968 NFL Draft. Utah State’s Bill Staley also went in the second round of the 1968 NFL, being selected by the Cincinnati Bengals with the 28th pick.
The draft Wednesday night took place at ESPN’s facilities in Bristol, Connecticut, via video conferencing because of COVID-19.