For only the eighth time in program history, a Utah State men’s basketball player has been selected as an AP All-American.
Junior guard Sam Merrill was named to the AP’s honorable mention All-American squad, an announcement that was made Tuesday.
The reigning Mountain West Player of the Year joins a list that includes Wayne Estes (1965), Marvin Roberts (1969, 1971), Jaycee Carroll (2007, 2008), Gary Wilkinson (2009) and Tai Wesley (2011). Estes is the only Aggie to ever be tabbed to the first team.
Additionally, Merrill is only one of two players from the Mountain West to be honored by the AP this season, joining Nevada senior forward Caleb Martin. Utah Valley junior guard Jake Toolson, the Western Athletic Conference Player of the Year, was the other athlete from the Beehive State to be recognized by the AP. Like Merrill, Martin and Toolson were honorable mention honorees.
Merrill led USU in scoring (20.9 points per game) and assists (4.2 per game) during the 2018-19 campaign, and tied for the team lead with 37 steals. The Bountiful native paced all Mountain West players in conference games only in scoring (22.0 ppg), and is the first Aggie to average more than 20 points an outing since Carroll in 2007-08.
Merrill, a first-team all-district pick, racked up 731 points this season, which ranks fifth for a single season in the USU record books. No. 5 also held down the top spot in the conference in free throw percentage (.904).
The Aggies went 28-7 in ’18-’19, shared the Mountain West regular season title and won the Mountain West Tournament. The Aggies punched their ticket to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since the 2011 team captured the WAC regular season and tournament championships.
Wilson, an assistant coach at USU from 2015-2018, was hired as the head coach at the University of Texas at Tyler. Wilson will by formally introduced at a press conference next Wednesday, the school announced Tuesday.
Prior to his time on Tim Duryea’s staff at USU, Wilson had coaching stops at Adams State (2006-10), Cal State Northridge (2006-10), Idaho State (1998-06) and Southern Utah (1992-98). Wilson spent this past season as the associate head coach at Grand Canyon, where he helped the Lopes advance to the championship game of the WAC Tournament.
This will be Wilson’s second time as a collegiate head coach as he enjoyed a successful tenure at Adams State. In five seasons at the Colorado-based program, Wilson guided the Grizzlies to an overall record of 95-46 and took three teams to NCAA Division II Tournament.
Wilson will be the fourth head coach in program history at UT Tyler, which is a D-II program.
The Aggies return to action Wednesday when they travel to Pocatello, Idaho, to square off against Idaho State. The game is slated to start at 3 p.m.
The Bengals (13-17, 4-1 Big Sky) are led offensively by Aubrey Creekmore, who posts an impressive batting average of .455. Freshman Autumn Pease has been ISU’s ace as she has gone 7-3 this season and sports an ERA of 2.48.
Junior Riley Plogger paces USU (11-17, 2-3 MW) with a .359 batting average, while former Bear River star Bailee Trapp is right behind with a batting average of .356. Trapp, a senior, and freshman Lexi Orozco have each belted six home runs for the Aggies. Orozco has chipped in with a team-best six doubles and bats .346, which ranks third on the squad.
Another Bear River product, freshman Kapri Toone, is one of USU’s three primary pitchers. She ranks second on the team in innings pitched (58.1) and strikeouts (35), and first with 20 appearances in the circle.