Nevada Utah St Basketball

Utah State guard Brock Miller (22) takes a shot against Nevada in a game last season. The senior is one of two returning starters for the Aggies.

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Utah State canceled the Blue-White basketball scrimmage scheduled for Thursday night, but men’s head coach Ryan Odom invited fans to come check out the team next Wednesday.

The Aggies host Montana Western in an exhibition game at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum on Oct. 27. The first-year coach at USU hopes his team is healthier by then. He didn’t go into specifics, but said there are 11 athletes available right now on a roster of 18.

Odom was taking part in the second and final day of Mountain West Conference’s virtual media days. Odom and Aggie senior Justin Bean both addressed the media over zoom.

“It’s exciting to get things going in the Mountain West,” Odom said. “Things are well in Logan. We have a great group of guys here. The staff and players have really clicked so far, so the transition has been fun.”

Each school had 30 minutes with the coach going first, followed by an athlete.

“My goal and mindset every year is to be the best that I can be,” Bean said. “... This year I need to make sure and be that leader that others can look to. I’ve had a good offseason and worked really hard, the hardest I’ve worked in the offseason in my basketball career. I’m excited to put it all to the test. … But I just want to win games and be back on top of the Mountain West.”

On Wednesday, the preseason poll was released. USU was tabbed to finish fifth. That topic did not come up on Thursday.

Odom faced questions about why he chose to leave UMBC for USU, being a coaches’ son, being new to the league and the role Bean is going to play on the team this year to name a few. He was even asked if he had any advice for two other new coaches in the league that have fathers that were college head coaches.

“I never get tired of answering questions about my father,” Odom said. “He is a role model for me. He has been a tremendous influence on my life, as has my mom. … I wouldn’t want to give them any advice. One thing my father has always told me is to be myself.”

Why Utah State?

“First and foremost, the relationship with John Hartwell, our athletic director,” Odom said. “The first time we met in the interview process, it was pretty clear that we clicked. That’s what you want.

“… Obviously there is tradition at Utah State. Craig Smith and his staff did a tremendous job the last three years. It’s a true brotherhood here at Utah State. There have been great coaches throughout history, the NCAA Tournament, huge wins, the Spectrum and Spectrum magic.”

Any advice from his father, Dave Odom who was the head coach at South Carolina and Wake Forest?

“Yeah, he wanted me to negotiate for earlier start times so he didn’t have to stay up so late out east to watch our games,” Odom quipped.

The coach talked about finding out about the players that were on the roster and building relationships. He also acknowledged that the Mountain West Conference will be a challenge. He feels good to have athletes like Bean and Brock Miller that have been a part of championship teams at USU.

“Generally speaking when you walk into a situation as a new coach, it’s a rebuilding situation a lot of times or they haven’t had the success everybody desired,” Odom said. “This situation is a lot different. We are walking into a situation where the last three years have been tremendous for Utah State. We are excited to join that tradition and try to grow it. That’s the challenge we are up for and excited about it.”

Will plays be run for Bean?

“There is no doubt we will run stuff for Justin,” Odom said. “Justin has earned the right to have the ball in key times and key situations. We coach Justin and his teammates to make the right play for the team, focus on getting the best shot for Utah State. … He is shooting the ball really well right now, but he understands who he is as a basketball player and what his strengths are. Having self awareness is a cool thing. He is going to continue to chase down rebounds, have that high motor that he has and be the defender that he is. Justin is about winning and that is his primary focus.”

Asking about Bean was popular as the Aggie head coach fielded several questions about the forward from Oklahoma.

“Justin has been amazing since my arrival here,” Odom said. “I know this place means the world to him and his family. Utah State has been good to Justin Bean, and Justin Bean has been good to Utah State. … He has expanded his game and really worked on his jump shot. He is a guy we are going to count on to score the basketball for us and to be a leader for our team. I know he is eager for the challenge.”

USU returns seven letterwinners from last season, including two starters in Bean and Miller. With 18 athletes on the roster, that means there are a lot of newcomers, with the exception of transfers Brandon Horvath and RJ Eytle-Rock who played for Odom at UMBC.

When asked who has been a pleasant surprise so far, the coach just couldn’t narrow it down to one player.

“All of these guys have really impressed me so far,” Odom said.

The Aggie coach went on to talk about Miller, who has come back from a bad back and has been able to practice at full speed since school began, Horvath, Eytle-Rock, Rylan Jones, Steven Ashworth and Zee Hamoda.

“The guys really listen to Brock, and he is very competitive,” Odom said. “... It’s been fun to see the two guys (Horvath and Eytle-Rock) we brought out from UMBC and how they are interacting with the players here. Rylan Jones is back home now in Logan and is a special player. … Steven Ashworth has moxy and is about as positive of a guy as there is. … Zee has surprised us. He didn’t get here until August. He’s done really, really well. He is taller than I expected and athletic. He is a good basketball player with a bright future.

“... There are more guys than that I’ve been impressed with. I’ll stop at this point.”

Bean also talked about Hamoda.

“I can’t say enough about all of the guys and we have some returners that will provide great depth,” Bean said. “As far as a player fans haven’t seen, we call him Zee. He is a freshman, but plays the game at a high and very mature level for his age. Fans are going to love to see Zee.”

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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