Utah State’s Sam Merrill plays against Wyoming during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in the Mountain West Conference men’s tournament Friday, March 6, 2020, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Isaac Brekken)
LOGAN – Being a back-to-back-to-back champion is hard to do in any sport. Not for Sam Merrill, though. Sam has made a living of doing the impossible and overcoming adversity. The former Utah State Aggie and Mountain West Player of the Year will now have to do it again.
Sam, a two time Mountain West Conference Champion and NBA Champion joined The Full Court Press on 106.9 The FAN recently to talk about his recent ankle surgery. The surgery was needed due to what he called a “series of chronic ankle sprains” all on the same ankle and the most recent coming in November of 2021. The surgery was to get a bone spur removed and ligaments reconstructed on both sides of his ankle, something that he said is “pretty rare.” It’s about a four to five month rehab, and he is staying in Memphis for rehab.
For Sam, this is a bump in the road in what seemed like a smooth road for quite a while. After winning back to back titles in the Mountain West Conference under Craig Smith and alongside former Aggie teammate and now Kings big man Neemias Queta, Merrill then was drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks who went on to the NBA championship defeating the Phoenix Suns in six games (4-2).
Though Sam didn’t see a lot of time on the court with the Bucks, he said it was a great experience of how to win at the highest level and not taking losses as hard as he would in college.
“The fact that in college you have 30-some-odd games, in the NBA you have 80. There is a physical stamina that you have to develop, but I think, mentally, you have to be okay with losing sometimes.”
“I really learned well from the guys in Milwaukee: Giannis (Antetokounpo), Khris (Middleton) and Jrue (Holiday) specifically,” he added. “We go down 2-0 to Brooklyn in the 2nd round and I thought everyone would be super stressed and anxious about everything being on the line and those guys showed up the next day and were really professional and kept moving on.”
The Bucks would go down 2-0 once again vs the Suns in the NBA Finals before winning the next the four to win the title.
After the NBA title season, Sam was traded to Memphis. Sam said the team was going through the some tax issues, due to the expense of the team. He said that while in Milwaukee he didn’t play like himself, put too much pressure on himself, doing things maybe a bit out his characteristic. Now that Sam has a couple years under his belt he feels more sure of himself, that he does belong in the league and he is excited to get back on the court and prove it without the pressure.
The full interview with Sam Merrill is below: