Rylan Jones photo

Oregon guard Payton Pritchard (3) drives around Utah guard Rylan Jones, left, in a January 2020 game. Jones has transferred to Utah State.

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While it has been known for some time, four athletes have recently made it official in signing to play men’s basketball at Utah State.

The latest was announced by new Aggie head coach Ryan Odom on Tuesday. The coach had spoken about three other players last month in general terms, but after they signed made comments through press releases.

All four are eligible to play in the upcoming 2021-22 season. A fifth player is expected to join the Aggies in the near future and another will be walking on.

Tuesday’s addition was Norbert Thelissen. He had initially signed with the University of Utah a season ago with the intention of arriving in Salt Lake City for the 2021-22 season. He will now head north to Logan and have four years of eligibility after playing with Heroes Den Bosch in the Dutch professional leagues. Thelissen played in 19 games for Heroes in both the 2018-19 and 2019-20 seasons.

“We are extremely excited about the addition of Norbert to our program,” Odom said. “Norbert is a versatile forward with major potential and his game fits our style of play.”

Thelissen represented The Netherlands at the Division B FIBA U20 European Championships in Portugal during the summer of 2019, and averaged 11.1 points, 4.5 rebounds and 1.1 assists per game. He had a double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds against Armenia in the final game of the group stage and scored in double figures in four games, including a 20-point effort against Iceland. Overall, Thelissen shot 58.9 percent from the floor over the eight games, including 40.0 percent (10 of 25) from behind the 3-point line.

Another Ute that is very familiar with USU is Rylan Jones. He appeared in 45 games at Utah, including 43 starts. Over the course of his two years with the Utes, Jones averaged 7.6 points, 4.3 assists and 2.5 rebounds per game, while shooting 38.9 percent from the floor, 36.5 percent (61 of 167) from behind the arc and 83.3 percent (75 of 90) at the free throw line.

Jones was an immediate impact player for the Utes as a freshman, becoming the fourth player in school history to record a triple-double after finishing with 10 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists against Mississippi Valley State. Jones was one of just five freshmen in the country that season to average more than 9.5 points, 4.0 assists, 2.5 rebounds and 1.0 steals per game.

“We are excited to welcome Rylan back home,” Odom said. “He fell in love with basketball and of course the Aggies during his family’s time in Logan. Rylan made an immediate impact in the PAC-12 and his basketball IQ, ability to make others better and his overall competitiveness will be tremendous for our team. I know that he is excited to get to work with his teammates here at Utah State.”

Jones is the son of former USU assistant coach Chris Jones, who was a member of the staff under head coach Stew Morrill and Tim Duryea. The younger Jones prepped at Logan High School as a freshman before finishing his high school career at Olympus High School, leading the Titans to a 5A state title during the 2017-18 season. Jones was named the state of Utah’s Mr. Basketball that season along with earning Utah’s Gatorade Player of the Year.

As a senior, Jones became just the third player to be named Utah’s Mr. Basketball for the second consecutive year after setting a Utah high school record with 266 assists. Jones was ranked as a four-star recruit and one of the top 25 point guards in the nation by multiple outlets.

The other two players to join the Aggies are very familiar with Odom. They both are heading east from UMBC, where the new USU coach comes from.

R.J. Eytle-Rock led the Retrievers in scoring a season ago, averaging 14.3 points per game and shooting 47.4 percent from the floor and 40.0 percent (22 of 55) from behind the arc. He also led UMBC at the foul line, attempting more (101) and making more (80) shots from the free throw line than any other member of the team. Eytle-Rock scored in double figures in each of the Retrievers’ final 12 games of the season and in 16 games overall, turning in 20 or more points in three games, including a season-high 27 at New Hampshire.

“R.J. will be an excellent addition to our program,” Odom said. “He is excited to be joining his new teammates in Logan and will strengthen our backcourt with his versatility on both ends.”

The London, England, native was also tops for UMBC with 51 assists, averaging 2.5 per game, while also averaging close to five rebounds per game (4.9). Eytle-Rock pulled down five or more rebounds in 12 games and had multiple assists in all but five games during the year.

Graduate transfer Brandon Horvath is joining the Aggies for his final season of eligibility after playing at UMBC the last four years. The 6-foot-10 forward finished second on the team a season ago with 13.1 points per game and led the Retrievers on the glass with 8.7 rebounds per contest. At the end of the 2020-21 season, Horvath was named second-team all-District 1 by the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) and to the first team of the America East Conference.

“We are excited to have Brandon join us here at Utah State. Brandon worked really hard to establish himself as one of the better players in the America East,” Odom said. “He certainly fits our style of play and will prove to be a versatile player for our program. He is excited about the challenge of competing in the Mountain West.”

Over the course of his career at UMBC, Horvath appeared in 113 games and made 54 starts, including every game during the 2020-21 season.

Bean on NBA draft list

On Tuesday evening the NBA announced that 353 players — 296 from colleges and other educational institutions and 57 international players — had filed as early entry candidates for the NBA Draft 2021

USU center Neemias Queta was among the collegiate hopefuls, which was no surprise as he had already announced his intentions and hired an agent. But another Aggies’ name appeared as well, which was a bit of a surprise.

Forward Justin Bean was on the alphabetical list, the 22nd player from the top. The 6-7 junior has already been very vocal about supporting the new USU head coach and declaring he wasn’t going anywhere.

Aggie fans don’t need to worry as he has not hired an agent and decided to use the experience to get some feedback and be evaluated.

Players who have applied for early entry have the right to withdraw their names from consideration for the draft by notifying the NBA of their decision in writing no later than 3 p.m. on Monday, July 19. Under NCAA rules, in order to retain college basketball eligibility, college players who have entered NBA Draft 2021 must withdraw by Wednesday, July 7.

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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