Aggie men’s basketball opponents for the upcoming season have been warned.
The Mountain West Conference Defensive Player of the Year and Freshman of the Year is returning to play at least one more season with Utah State. That’s right, Neemias Queta is pulling his name out of the NBA draft.
Queta made the decision on Saturday and made it official on Tuesday — one day before the deadline to withdraw. He declared on social media platforms that “I’ll be back” and “Aggie nation, I’m back.”
The 6-foot-11 center from Barreiro, Portugal, is excited to be back in Logan and rejoin his Aggie teammates. He plans on doing all he can to help USU repeat as Mountain West champs and return to the NCAA Tournament next season.
“I’m very glad to have this opportunity of having another year at Utah State,” Queta said in an interview with The Herald Journal. “It’s going to be a really good learning experience for me and all of my teammates. We can be a really good team next year.”
USU head men’s basketball coach Craig Smith is excited to have Queta back for his second year.
“This has been a great process for Neemias,” Smith said in a press release. “He gained both valuable feedback from NBA personnel and experiences that will help him in the future at Utah State and beyond. Neemias is a fantastic player, but what sets him apart is his character and what he stands for as a person. I know he loves Utah State University and he can’t wait to get to work.”
The 19-year-old declared for the NBA draft back in early April and was represented by an agent. Under new NCAA rules, college athletes can now get an agent and still return to school.
The Aggie freshman worked out with the Utah Jazz and was one of 66 athletes invited to the NBA Combine in Chicago earlier this month. He met with 11 teams at the combine.
“I learned how the NBA works,” Queta said. “You don’t have an idea until you are there. It was good for me to learn what they are looking for and what they are looking for in bigs. It was a really good experience for me.”
And how was the combine in Chicago?
“I went and gave my best,” Queta said. “... It was really nice seeing players you have never played against. It shows you all the work you have put in. It is worth it. I’m not done. I want to go there again, so I’m going to work for it.”
The Aggie big man got plenty of feedback from NBA personnel.
“I need to get a lot stronger,” Queta said. “I need to grow and expand my game so I feel more comfortable shooting away from the rim. I think I’m doing a good job, but it’s a long process. I need to be able to guard on the perimeter too.”
He did hit a couple of 3-pointers during the 2018-19 season with the Aggies, but wants to be more consistent and be a weapon away from the basket. During a workout with the Utah Jazz, a video made it to social media. The clip showed him draining 15-foot shots with ease.
“I talked to a lot of teams,” Queta said. “Unfortunately, I couldn’t work out for a lot, but it was good for me.”
While he wants to play at the next level, Queta is also excited about returning to a team he became fond of. He also feels playing at USU in the MW will help improve his game.
“I’ve learned a lot these last few days,” Queta said. “I think I will learn and improve, and hopefully be a better player next year. ... I feel like we still have a chip on our shoulders. We know how to handle it and I think we are going to have a really good year. We are going to improve. We need to do a better job and I think we will.”
Queta was a late signee for last season. This summer will be much different for the soon to be sophomore. He is going to get in the weight room and start working on bulking up some.
“My main priority right now is to get stronger,” Queta said. “I’m working on it. I think that will be showcased next year.”
He will also return to Portugal for part of June and July as his country is the host for the Under 20 European championship. He will play for Portugal.
“It’s going to be a really good opportunity,” Queta said.
In his first season at USU, Queta shattered the school’s single-season blocks record and helped the Aggies to their first appearance in the NCAA Tournament since 2011. Queta finished the year with 84 blocks, far surpassing the previous school record of 59. Queta led the Mountain West and finished 14th in the nation with 2.4 blocks per contest. He started the year with at least one block in 29 straight games, the longest such streak in USU history, and recorded at least one rejection in all but one game during the year. Queta recorded a season-high six blocks in two games, matching the third-most blocks in a game in USU history and setting a new Mountain West freshman record.
In addition to his defense, Queta finished second on the team in scoring with 11.8 points per game, and led the team with 8.9 rebounds per outing. Queta scored in double figures in 24 games and logged a team-best 10 double-doubles during the season. Queta’s team-leading 312 rebounds during the year marked the first time an Aggie has surpassed 300 rebounds in a season since the 1976-77 campaign and was a new USU freshman record.
Queta will be one of four starters returning, including MW Player of the Year Sam Merrill, who led the Aggies with 20.9 points, 4.2 assists and 1.1 steals per game. Guards Brock Miller and Abel Porter are also back. Miller finished second on the team last year with 70 3-pointers — the second-most by a freshman in school history — while Porter led the Aggies at the point and knocked down the game-winning trey at New Mexico.
In addition to the starters, USU returns two other letterwinners in guard Diogo Brito, who was regarded as one of the best sixth men in the MW, and forward Justin Bean, who finished third on the team in offensive rebounding a season ago.
USU finished the 2018-19 campaign with a 28-7 record and secured a No. 8 seed in the NCAA Tournament, the highest-ever seed by the Aggies in the history of the program. USU also finished the year ranked No. 25 in the nation.