And then there were four.
Aggie center Neemias Queta is one of them. That’s right, the Utah State junior is among elite company.
Tuesday morning the Aggie big man was named a finalist for the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year by the Atlanta Tipoff Club. The other three finalists include Baylor’s Davion Mitchell, Alabama’s Herbert Jones and Southern Cal’s Evan Mobley. That trio of athletes are all on teams that have advanced to the Sweet Sixteen in the NCAA Tournament.
USU was knocked out of the Big Dance last Friday in a first round loss to Texas Tech, 65-53. Despite the loss, Queta had a solid outing as he finished with 11 points and game-highs in rebounds (13), assists (6) and blocked shots (7).
It was the 16th double-double of the season for Queta and the 30th of his Aggie career. He also made some national news as just the second player in the NCAA Tournament since 1986 to finish with 10-plus points, 10-plus rebounds, five-plus assists and five-plus blocks in a game.
Queta was a defensive force this season, with an NCAA-best 97 blocks. He is one of only three players in the nation with 90 or more blocks this season. The total also broke his own USU record of 84, set during his freshman campaign in 2018-19.
Overall, Queta has recorded 219 blocks over the course of his career, far surpassing the previous Aggie record of 155 career blocks set by Gilbert Pete from 1986-89. Queta’s 219 total blocks put him tied for third in Mountain West Conference history, matching the University of Utah’s David Foster.
In addition to his single-season and career records, Queta also broke the USU single-game record for blocks, racking up nine rejections against Colorado State in the semifinals of the Mountain West Conference Tournament. The 7-footer finished the game with a near-triple-double of 18 points, 14 rebounds and nine blocks. Queta recorded five or more blocks in nine games this season and in 15 during his career and finished with multiple blocks in 22 games this season and 55 during his career.
His prowess as a rim protector was clearly seen throughout the year. However, Queta also finished second on the team with 31 steals, led the MW and ranked second in the nation in total defensive rating (80.6), led the league and the nation in defensive win shares (2.9) and led the MW and the nation in defensive box plus/minus (6.9).
Queta balanced his defensive efforts with a strong showing on the offensive side of the ball, finishing as the only player in the conference to average a double-double on the year with 14.9 points and 10.1 rebounds per game. The junior finished third on the team with 77 assists this season, averaging 2.7 per contest and was the only player in the nation this year with 75 or more assists and 95 or more blocks. In fact, Queta is one of only 10 players since 1992-93 to surpass 95 or more blocks and 75 or more assists in the same season, joining the likes of Tim Duncan, Erick Dampier and Joakim Noah.
Queta is one of only two players in the NCAA since 1992-93 to finish the year averaging more than 14.5 points, 10.0 rebounds, 3.0 blocks, 2.5 assists and 1.0 steals per game, joining Houston’s Bo Outlaw (1992-93) with that distinction.